Monday, September 28, 2009

Childhood Favorites

My daughter is loving her course in Children’s Television. I’m attending vicariously!

One class focused on early TV shows like Howdy Doody (hello Clarabelle!) and Captain Kangaroo (cheers Mr. Greenjeans). The production values were scarcely high-tech. There was no attempt to hide Howdy’s puppet strings and the kids in the peanut gallery were sitting on wooden benches five feet from the action. And yet they captured the imagination of kids across the country.

My own kids loved Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Calmer and far less frenetic than Sesame Street, my children, especially son number one, adored King Friday XIII and the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Little hand puppets captured his imagination, and this was the kid who adored Star Wars, so it wasn’t like he didn’t appreciate special effects.

Fred Rogers was a different kind of children’s TV host. For the first time, the star was supposed to be a grown-up, not an oversized child who got into mischief (see Pinky Lee). Rogers talked directly to children, offering reassurance and advice that this Mom continues to find valuable. There was a gentleness to his show I miss – both in current kid-vid, adult TV fare, and for that matter, in real life.

Of course, not all my TV viewing (or my children’s time in front of the boob tube) was of the educational variety. Growing up, I watched plenty of dumb sitcoms that thanks to TVLand, I can now rewatch. It’s like entering a time machine. On The Andy Griffith Show, there are silly (even offensive) stereotypes about men and women; alcoholics like Otis Campbell are portrayed as nice guys who just need a safe place to sleep it off; and in one recent show, I actually heard Andy Taylor tell Barney Fife to “come out on the porch, I need a smoke: – and then we watched him light up!

I read a lot, but also spent hours in front of the television watching soap operas, game shows, and variety hours. I’m convinced that time dedicated to All My Children and General Hospital taught me about plot development and pacing (most of all, I learned that at some point, a storyline can get dragged out waaaay too long and the audience, or reader, loses interest).

What were your favorite childhood TV shows – the good, the bad, and the ridiculous?

Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David


  1. In my early grade school days I could've lived on reruns of The Brady Bunch, Leave It to Beaver, and Gilligan's Island. And for some reason I found Hogan's Heroes entertaining.

    Heck - I could stand to watch some of those right now! Where's the remote!

  2. Brady Bunch, hands down. If I see an episode broadcast, I'll drop everything and watch it. As a matter of fact, my cousins and I were reciting lines from our favorite episodes this weekend. When one of our children threw a football and it missed my head by inches, my cousin's husband said, "Didn't you see the Brady Bunch?" and I chimed in with "Mom always said, 'Don't play ball in the house.'" Boy, I need to get a life. Maggie

  3. In keeping with the PBS theme, I remember begging mom to let me stay up past my naptime to watch the Polka Dot Door. There was also 3 2 1 Contact and Reading Rainbow.

    As for the less wholesome television shows - oh, those Saturday morning cartoons! I find that the classic Bugs Bunny and company are able to stand the test of time. Not so much for shows like Voltron, She-Ra, and My Little Pony.


  4. You all watched the programs my kids watched. Back in my day it was radio shows that I listened to--the best being Let's Pretend which broadcast on Saturday morning and was always a fairy tale in dramatic form.

    We did get a TV (my dad put it together and it was the first on the block) and the only children's program was Beanie and Cecil which were hand puppets and very silly.


  5. When we lived in Connecticut while I was in grade school, my mom used to let my sister and I stay up late to watch "Starsky & Hutch." It was such a big deal! Like Rosie, I loved Saturday morning cartoons, too, and shows like "Land of the Lost" and "H.R. Puff'n'Stuff." Ah, they don't make 'em like they used to! Oh, yeah, Maggie, and "The Brady Bunch" re-runs...and The Patridge Family...and yep, Kris, "Gilligan's Island." I remember, too, pretending to be Judy from "Lost in Space," zipping up my white go-go boots, getting up on the picnic table, and pretending I was a go-go dancer on an alien planet! Those were the days. Sigh.


  6. I just bought the anniversary DVD collection of School House Rock.

    I wouldn't know much math and a LOT of my memorization of the rules of grammar was bolstered up by tunes like "Interjections", and "Conjunction Junction". For math, I loved "Naughty Number Nine", "Three is a Magic Number", and "Figure Eight".

    Good times.

  7. Vicky! I'm glad you mentioned "Schoolhouse Rock." I can still sing, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" and I can recite (okay, sing) the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to SR. I wish they still had it on. I need to get my niece the DVD collection!


  8. Soupy Sales. If you remember his show, it will explain a lot about me.