Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Golden Age of Kids' TV

When we lived near Fairlawn, OH, we loved to shop at the Borders book store there. What a favorite place, where we spent a great deal of money! It closed after we moved, and soon all other Borders stores followed suit, to our regret.

One Christmas season, at the Fairlawn store, I amused my daughter when I purchased a book by Jerry Beck, Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! (DK Adult, 2007). I explained that I'm quite nostalgic about her childhood.

Emily was little during the 1990s, now widely regarded as a notable era in children's programming, thanks in part to the Nickelodeon network and its series of imaginative shows. Emily's favorite show for a long time, however, was Muppet Babies, on CBS in 1984-1991 but in syndication throughout the 1990s. We watched those shows every day in summertime, and recorded several on VHS for later viewing. In the early 1990s, she also loved the Bozo show on WGN. I recorded those for her while she was in preschool, and we even considered getting tickets for the show (but there was a multi-year waiting list, and the show ended in the last part of the 90s, as I recall).

With a little research on the internet, I created a list of shows that we watched over the years.  Most were on Nickelodeon but some on Cartoon Network or Kid's WB or the Disney Channel. As I think of more, I'll add them to the list. In no particular order:

Muppet Babies
Tiny Toon Adventures
Hey Arnold!
Rocko's Modern Life
Dexter's Laboratory
Powerpuff Girls (an older relative called this show "Space Bugs," LOL)
Johnny Bravo
As Told by Ginger
Oh, Yeah! Cartoons!
The Wild Thornberries

Time Bandits
Rocket Power
Spongebob Squarepants
Samurai Jack
Chalk Zone
Jimmy Neutron
Katie and Orbie
Danny Phantom
Butt-Ugly Martians
Cat Dog
Dragon Ball Z
Captain Planet and the Planeteers

The Angry Beavers
Invader Zim
Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers
Fairly Odd Parents
Aaahh! Real Monsters
Sailor Moon

G Gundam (we had all 50-some episodes on DVD, too)

We also watched some Nickelodeon sitcoms, variety shows, and game shows:

You Can't Do That on Television (that's an early one! I think Alanis Morissette was briefly a character on that show, but we didn't notice her because her music career hadn't yet taken off in the U.S.)
Adventures of Pete and Pete
Salute Your Shorts
100 Deeds for Eddie Dowd
All That
Clarissa Explains It All

The Secret World of Alex Mack
The Amanda Show
Double Dare
Wild and Crazy Kids

Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Global GUTS
Legends of the Hidden Temple
Figure It Out

Also Even Stevens on the Disney Channel, and I think a few others. 

But that's not all!   The TLC Network once had a block of shows called "Ready, Set, Learn," aimed at kids. I thought those shows were good, but the network eventually fazed out their kids shows (transferring them to the Discovery Kids network) and devoted programming to different kinds of formats: home decorating, baby shows, make-over shows like "What Not to Wear," and so on. But I remember kids shows like Magic School Bus, The World of David the Gnome, Skimmerink TV, Salty's Lighthouse, Zoobilee Zoo, Book Mice, and The Magic Box. (The Magic Box was, I think, a Canadian show geared toward helping preschoolers learn to read. It was quite well done but it's hard to find information on it now. I've one episode on VHS and wished I'd recorded a few more for "posterity.")

The Nick Jr. block of shows on Nickelodeon included favorite programs like Eureeka's Castle, Little Bear, Franklin, Little Bill, Max and Ruby, Maisy, Gullah Gullah Island, and others. Emily liked Blue's Clues for a while. We also watched Zooboomafoo, Wishbone, Liberty's Kids, and Cyberchase on PBS. She watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood for a while, Reading Rainbow more often. 

A few shows of the era are missing from our personal list, notably Barney. Emily never watched the show very much, other than one prime-time special (which we recorded) where Barney and the kids went off on a boat and visited a pirate island, and she liked her Barney doll. We never watched Beavis and Butt-Head and Ren and Stimpy---thank goodness. She never watched Ninja Turtles, X-Men, or Darkwing Duck for some reason, and Daria only occasionally.

I hated CatDog and Invader Zim. I disliked the latter's occasional gross-out humor (although the animation was very imaginative) and the premise of one sane person in a world of crazy people (a common enough trope: think both Bob Newhart shows, and many other examples). CatDog was just kind of mean: a character who's different is constantly abused by bullies. No thank you. But Emily liked the show.

We watched some classic shows produced in the decades prior to the 1990s: Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and his "colleagues," Popeye, and Scooby-Doo.  These will will be on television forever! I remember when Scooby-Doo premiered in 1969: a quartet of kids and their dog riding around in their hippy van, solving mysteries. Who would've thought that show would have such staying power?

I think I'm leaving out more anime shows on the order of Dragonball Z, G Gundam, and Sailor Moon, but I'll have to think about it for a while. We also watched a variety of movies on VHS, but I'll leave those out of this list: our trips to the video store is a good subject for another blog post. Emily did enjoy a series of (what I'll call) Christian adventures that were on TV and also VHS, but I'm blanking on the name of the series, which was well-done and compelling rather than preachy.

I was going to reminisce about some of the shows I've listed here, but they mostly consist of Emily and me, or Emily and my wife and me relaxing on the weekend, or after school, or during summertime: contented family times. If you're reading this post and recognize some of these shows, they'll elicit your own personal memories.

I've a long list in memory of favorite kid shows I watched in the 1960s and 1970s. But I don't think I remember them nearly as fondly as all these which I watched with my daughter when she was young. No need to explain why.

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