Hello, Neighbor!

February 25, 2011

I think there’s some kind of movie-related awards ceremony coming up so0n. 

Anne Hathaway and James Franco are hosting, which is exactly why I won’t be watching.  Not that watching James Franco isn’t a great time, because it is.  I just cannot abide the unnaturally radioactive shade of red lipstick Anne Hathaway will be wearing, despite all of her other features.  The lipstick ruins everything.  If someone tells her to choose a more natural shade of red that doesn’t clash with her pallid complexion, I may tune in.

But I’m not talking about movies today.  Today, I want to talk about the assault on our children that is coming into our homes in the form of children’s “educational” television.  I just think the shows I watched were much better, and did not give me epilepsy.  But maybe I’m remembering them with rose-colored glasses.  Let’s think back to some of the beloved shows of our youth.

The Mean Street

Teaching kids about the school of hard knocks

Sesame Street is the original children’s television show.  I watched it religiously.  It was the most well crafted, and well researched show for kids that featured a furry green hobo living in a trash can.  The only thing lacking was that I wanted to see fisticuffs break out between the two actors inside Snuffalupagus.

Compare Sesame Street to…

Sesame Street

You know all the turmoil in the Middle East?  Thousands of people are revolting against ruthless dictators.  I don’t know when it happened, but Sesame Street fell under the dark, totalitarian rule of Elmo.  Big Bird must have let his guard down, and Elmo came to power, and then banished all of his opponents.  Seriously, when was the last time Gordon and Maria were heard from? 

Hello Neighbor

I don’t think a show like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would make it today.  It’s too soothing, too optimistic, too peaceful for today’s jaded three-year-olds.  Plus, Mister Rogers never made a fool of himself in public, or hit bottom in his personal life.  That’s no way to keep ratings high.  Preschoolers are only waiting for their idols to fail so they can cynically jeer at them and feel better about their own lack of achievements and eye-hand coordination.  Why do you think Blue’s Clues stayed so popular?  Because it had a built-in, behind-the-scenes reality show, full of sex, drugs, and public wardrobe malfunctions.  Though we’re all glad Blue got cleaned up finally.

Compare Mister Rogers to…

Anything from Japan

I think Japan only has one children’s show.  They just put a bunch of different names on it.  Everything is about fighting, loud noises, strobe lights, and giant robots.  By the end, children are just staring, wide-eyed, drooling.  When the most popular Japanese show, Pokemon features a main “character,” some kind of mutated yellow wolverine animal, whose dialogue is limited to only screeching his own name, over and over again, you know the plot can’t be that thick; only the brains that thought it up.

Happy Little Trees

Tormented genius

I never actually knew the name of this show.  I just knew the show by the one and only person on camera, Bob Ross.  Would you believe Bob Ross was a military man whose job it was to yell at people?  And while Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting wasn’t technically a kids’ show, he was still the friendliest white guy with an afro you could find on TV, and he was mesmerizing to me.  In every show, Bob would paint a tranquil landscape.  He was kind of like the Thomas Kincaide of TV, except he was talented.  If you’ve never known the joy of painting happy little trees, then I just pity you.

What were your favorite shows when you were a kid?  What shows do you forbid your own children to watch?

49 responses to Hello, Neighbor!

  1. I wasn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers because it was too violent.

    That being said, my favorite shows were Wishbone, Captain Planet…and Power Rangers.

    Power Rangers has somehow managed a million reincarnations (probably the Anything From Japan rule), but the other ones weren’t so lucky.

    How are my future children going to learn “that saving the planet is the thing to do?” Or love literature? The future seems so bleak.
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..Bursting the Bubble of Worry

  2. Hi Matt,

    Captain Midnight. Gangbusters. Superman. Inner Sanctum. The FBI In Peace and War. Sky King… These are the childrens’ programs that shaped my youth–but we’re talking radio programs here so you may not remember any of these.

    The values of honesty, courtesy, respect, and patriotism portrayed in these shows still underpin my basic belief system.

    And, oddly enough, to this day, over 60 years later, I still buy Marita Bread, Ovalteen, Pepsi, Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, Nabisco Shredded Wheat–products that sponsored those old-time childrens’ radio shows….

    Does that mean I’m on the cutting edge of being brain washed?

    John Cowart

  3. Hi Matt, it’s John again

    The Lone Ranger! How could I forget the Lone Ranger!

    Then there was Jack Benny, the Shadow, The Green Hornet…

    And–please don’t tell my wife–but, in a fit of nostalgic pre-adolescent hots, I’d still like to Meet Corlis Archer.

  4. I sort of fit John’s era. I didn’t listen to the radio though. I used to watch B & W versions of Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, The Lone Ranger, Sea Hunt. Cartoons were Mighty Mouse & Hercules. Yeah, waaaaaaaaaaaay before your time. As for my kids: they watched SS but never really got into cartoons. They eventually watch umpteen showings of Saved By the Bell. Gag!!
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..Transformed

  5. I remember finding Conan the Barbarian very educational as a young person.
    David N. recently posted..An American geeks Childhood- No 18

  6. Wow, I missed a lot that stuff – I’m too old. We only had a TV from 1962 until 1968; black and white of course. It only received 3 or 4 channels. So for me it was, Speed Racer, the Rifleman, Lassie and the 3 Stooges. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. As a family we would watch the Wondeful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights.

    I took a pupeterring class with Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, in the ’70s. He was very cool.

    As a parent, the agenda driven and PC filtered overtones in kids cartoons and programming are enough for me to ban most of them – especially Disney stuff. My little one watches Little Bear, and had a run with Tom & Jerry. We found some Curious George (boring!), and older Winne the Pooh stuff. And we watch Dora the Explorer and Diego in Spanish.

    Me, I am an All in the Family sort of guy.
    David recently posted..Not Sin- Not God

    • What? You actually took a puppeteering class with the man himself? Wow. I heard he got into puppetteering by being rejected for a desk job at the TV station, seeing a flyer that they were looking for puppeteers, so he went back upstairs and said “Okay I’m a puppeteer.” Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story.

  7. Matt, you forgot to mention that way back then, kids shows were only on specified times. Such as cartoons on Saturday morning from 8-11am; weekday mornings until 11am for preschool children and after-school from 3-5pm. There wasn’t entire networks devoted to stuff I’d want to watch.

    My favourite was Mr. Dress-up but I think he might have been Canadian. He was on right after the Friendly Giant, and before Sesame Street. He had a tickle trunk that had amazing dress up clothes, he always did a craft or painting of some sort and he had a puppet friend, Casey, who lived in the tree house in the back yard.

    I met Mr. Dress-up when I was a teenager; served him in a restaurant where I worked. It was an honor.

  8. I remember when Snuffy first came on board SS. He was invisible to everyone but Big Bird. When did everyone else become able to see him? I also think I watched every Mister Rogers between 1969 – 1975. I loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe and it’s weird ongoing storyline (and how we took Trolley to get there). Some others I loved were Electric Company and Zoom.

    • I read that at first, the Muppets didn’t appear with the people. The people lived on the “street.” I don’t know where the “imaginary” creatures lived. Sesame back alley? The thought was that it would confuse children, but Henson insisted the show would be better if they appeared together. Also, Oscar started out as orange.

  9. Sesame Street (pre-Elmo), Zoom, Electric Company, Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo.

    I loved Mister Rogers, but those puppets scared the crap outta me.
    katdish recently posted..My secret shame

    • My roommate and I developed an all-purpose way to mock our (now) wives when they are whining/nagging/being indecisive. We just channel the cat that lives in the tree and repeat what they say with a lot of “meow meow” in between the words. Never fails.

    • YOU NAILED BOTH OF MINE! Not trying to sound all “My parents were better than yours because they wouldn’t let me watch TV”…but TV was for the news and sports in my house. BUT there were 2 shows I watched daily before they kicked me outside to play…

      CAPTAIN KANGAROO and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.

      Most people probably don’t know Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, and Rita Moreno were on there…I do. GREAT SHOW!

      “The Adventures of Letterman” possibly did more for me than 1st-3rd grades!
      Lazarus recently posted..I Love the 80sLove Notes Edition!

      • I don’t know about Letterman, but did you watch “Letter People?” When they started, they pretty much had no money, and were just amorphous blob puppets with large red letters surgically attached to their faces, but as they grew in popularity, they began to manifest traits that actually went with their letters. (H had a lot of hair, E liked to exercise, etc.) They were pretty creepy, but I liked them. I think eventually they had the same fate as Cookie Monster, in that the creators realized half of them were based on junk food, so they got a lame makeover.

  10. Here’s a tv moment memory from a friend of mine:

    He recalls from kindergarten age or so sitting with the family watching the news at dinner; the news at that time involved graphic stories and video from the Vietnam War. Once his parents left the table, he changed the channel. He turned to Sesame Street where there was a “guest star” singing. It was Stevie Wonder in his loud colored clothing, hair in beads and singing in 70’s pop/motown style. His father walked back into the kitchen, glanced at the television and quickly turned it off. “I don’t want you watching that!” he said.
    You know in those days – Free Love, hippies, and tolerance were going to ruin us all. He has always mused how the violence of the news was ok for childhood viewing, but seeing someone just a little different than himself was right out.
    Fortunately he grew up to be quite open minded and eager to learn about other people and cultures (particularly regarding music) – he also grew up to be very intolerant of the news.
    Mardra recently posted..The Boy Who Cried Wolf

  11. Loved Mr. Rogers, Electric Company, and Captain Kangaroo. And the Great Space Coaster.

    My kids (2 & 4) watch PBS Kids solely because I just can’t do the commercialism of Disney (the first Disney princesses invaded our house a few weeks ago thanks to a friend’s birthday party – I was NOT amused). We watch Martha Speaks (a dog that talks – works on vocabulary), Curious George (problem-solving skills), Cat in the Hat (plant/animal facts), Word Girl (HILARIOUS vocabulary-building – my favorite villain is “Lady Redundant Woman”), and Word World (letters come together to form words). Over lunch, they watch Sesame Street (seriously – it’s like it’s all Elmo, all the time, and even worse, even though they have 40 years of programming to draw from, somehow they STILL run recent (Elmo) re-runs about once a week!) They’d love to also watch Dinosaur Train (dinosaur facts), Sid the Science Kid (science facts), Super Why (spelling/reading), Electric Company (spelling, letter sounds), and Zula Patrol (science/nature facts, often about space) but that’d be WAY too much TV. They get that second set as treats occasionally.

    There for a while, we watched DVDs almost exclusively because our local PBS channels would change their line-ups monthly and about the time we’d get used to a “schedule,” they’d change and I’d have to vet new shows, but this digital cable stuff helps with the consistency. DVDs were almost all VeggieTales, What’s in the Bible, Hermie, and the occasional Boz (which makes me want to poke out my ears).

    The 4-yr-old also loves Mario Kart on the Wii. He’s pretty good when he doesn’t get distracted. Oh, and he’d LOVE to watch Mr. Rogers, but it comes on at naptime. I’m not sure if he likes the show, or if he just wants to avoid the nap/quiet play time.

    It amazes me the “big name” actors who do voices for these shows (not to mention cameos on the Street). Martin Short voices the Cat in the Hat, William H. Macy is the narrator for Curious George, Christopher Lloyd and Gilbert Godfried (sp?) are on one called Cyberchase (math skills), and I haven’t verified it yet, but I swear it’s the mom from “Married with Children” on one called “Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies” (animal facts).
    Princess Leia recently posted..Shoeboxes!

  12. Ah, Bob Ross. I remember being really sad the day he died because he seemed like a decent guy.

    For me, I can’t remember many cartoons as a kid. I think I watched Tom and Jerry. As a teen I was a heavy Animaniacs fan.
    Jason recently posted..Day 55- In a mirror dimly

  13. Hello Matty,

    Oscar taught me the word “yuck”. My parents cursed his name.
    Gordon and Maria both have full-throttle hearing aides and are unable to be in the same room with Elmo (do to his Michael Jacksonesque speech impediment) much less on the street.
    Sorry, I think Mr. Rogers was a no-talent hack who just wanted to sit around in his moldy sweater and 1950-ish tennis shoes and make funny voices that aren’t even funny. I was more than willing to get up from whatever vegetative state I was in to change the channel when Mr. Codger came on.
    I don’t watch shows where the dialogue doesn’t match the lip movements (except, of course, for Police Academy).
    We watched The Love Boat as kids. Now, there’s a wholesome family show; people meeting complete strangers on a cruise and disappearing behind cabin doors to talk about their lives and play Yahtzee while Gopher and Isaac watched them on a video surveilance camera from the bar.

    Have a Happy Day,
    Lazy Silly Girl
    http://www.lazysillygirl.com

  14. Bob Ross was the man. My favorite, though, was GI Joe. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
    seekingpastor recently posted..Someday Soon

  15. Growing up, I watched a lot of PBS. On Saturday morning, I remember watching Garfield and Friends and Doug.

    Sadly, Mr. Rogers has now been demoted to one episode per week, 10:00 on Saturday morning.

    A friend’s children recently saw a clip from old-school Looney Tunes. They cackled with laughter. Yes, modern shows are educational, but what’s funny or interesting about Special Agent Oso, etc.?

  16. I am totally with you about how Sesame Street turned out. I also watched Mr Rodgers. Some you did not mention:

    Captain Kangaroo, Vultron, GI Joe, He-Man, Thundercats, You Can’t Do That On Television, just to name a few.

  17. Didn’t watch that much TV growing up… my mom worked as a children’s librarian. I had piles of books available, and I’m still a compulsive reader.

    However, we did watch Captain Kangaroo (my mom loved Mr. Moose). And my all time favorite was roadrunner cartoons!

    Our kids watched very limited TV–Sesame Street (in the ’80s), Reading Rainbow, and 3-2-1 Contact. Nothing with ads… we didn’t want them to know what they “should” be wanting.

    Now THEY tell ME what not to watch!

  18. I grew up with Sesame Street and Nickelodeon when it started. Oscar the Grouch was definitely my favorite at first. So much so that we got a cat with a mustache that made my parents think of Groucho Marx (whom they thought I would not know, but I did) so they went with Oscar the Grouch and named the cat Oscar. I miss that cat. After a year of SS, I became a bigger fan of Cookie Monster. We have the same addiction.

    My favorite shows were definitely Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, Strawberry Shortcake (I had a thing for that cute, little redhead when I was a youngun), and Winnie the Pooh. When Nick-at-Night started and on weekends on PBS I would watch Andy Griffith, Three Stooges, Dick Van Dyke, and Leave It To Beaver. I thought for a long time the title meant to let the kid handle everything. It was when my parents said “Leave it to Danny to say just the wrong thing …” that I began to understand.

    Also, Barney (the Dinosaur) is the spawn of Satan. Just to make sure all are aware. I do not think this. I know!
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Coupled Love

    • Did you hear that cookie monster finally went to rehab and became “veggie monster?” Lame.

      • All I will say is I miss decent (or at least somewhat better) TV.

        My wife feeds my addiction. That is my rehab. She says “What kind of cookies do you want?” (Usually soft chocolate chip, homemade is always better. I do bake, so she does not do all the work)
        Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Coupled Love

      • I keep hearing people say that, and I guess I see from time to time him (or someone else) put in a caveat about eating cookies for dessert and good things for meals, but for the most part (when he’s on at all, which is rarely…stupid Elmo), he’s still just interested in cookies. My 2-yr-old daughter does a hilarious impersonation of him. I think (thankfully) that he’s her favorite Muppet at the moment.

        Anyway, never fear. They may be putting more of an emphasis on healthy eating, but they’re still using him as the bad example, not changing his character (kinda like they do with Oscar).

        Gotta say though that the episode I’ve see recently with Muppet vegetables picketing because people weren’t eating them was rather….uncomfortable? awkward? for me. Basically, they were using the vegetables to list the good qualities of each one….but they were complaining that they weren’t getting eaten enough. And I get that that’s their whole purpose in life, but it still seems odd to me that they’d be so upset that they weren’t being cooked and eaten. _I’m_ ok with not being cooked and eaten. I would think that anthropomorphic veggies would feel similarly.
        Princess Leia recently posted..Shoeboxes!

      • There are so many responses I want to use, but none that have the impact of a number of un-pc terms. *sigh* being a Christian with a reputation stinks sometimes!
        David recently posted..Not Sin- Not God

  19. My favorite show was Wishbone (it’s how I know the plots of all the great books) followed closely by Arthur (luckily both of these are on youtube). My brother watched Power Rangers (the original reincarnation, before they went all Magical-Dino-Robocop). We also watched Zoom and Bill Nye the Science Guy. There was also this “Greek/Roman Myths” animated show that came on weekend mornings. Useful for when people ask “So what’s the story of Persephone?”

    We also played outside a lot. TV was only for Saturday mornings and after school snack time. The TV was not to be turned on weekday mornings. I think SpongBob/Hannah Montana/Ben Ten/etc. are a plague on TV. They’re so mind numbing. I feel like I have to go read a textbook after watching TV with my little cousins.

  20. Well, I grew up with two tv channels (rural Australia), and remember Sesame Street pre-Elmo. My kids also watched it before the red, selfish, me-me-me fluff-ball took over. We are so not Elmo fans! I also remember the Cosby show. Loved Fat Albert and friends.

    It’s a real shame that there is so much variety, but not so much quality nowadays. Though we are fans of a few Japanese anime cartoons, mainly because we like the storylines and characters (and one of the voice actors in the English translation is a Christian singer/actor that we like).

  21. When I was a kid, I loved to watch the Carebears…oh, and Duck Tales, as far as cartoons go. I LOVED Bob Ross and nature shows the most, however.

    But, lest we forget, we had some pretty violent kids shows back then too– anyone remember He-Man and She-Ra? Oh yeah, and we had the now classic version of the animated Transformers. I hear the Smurfs was pretty controversial in Christian circles too, but my parents are Lutherans, and those aren’t really the types of controversies Lutherans specialize in. At least nowadays, they care less about whether Gargomel represents the occult and the devil, and more about whether or not to allow the ordination of gay individuals.

    As for my kids– they love Phineas and Ferb. I do to, actually. It’s a really well written cartoon. And my 3 1/2 year old daughter really loves Olivia. But really, who doesn’t love a pig in a red dress and tights?

  22. 3Stooges, Captain Kangaroo, Batman! (not the navel gazing one w today) and Superman! in long johns with a S sewn on the chest. B/W tv. 3 channels, no DVR, no cable, you HAD to schedule your shows into your play time…No Sesame St, no educational tv, just adventure shows and crazy comedy. Holy Razor Blades Batman! That was a close one!

  23. I loved watching Zoom and Electric Company Sid and Marty Kroft stuff was awesome! I really loved Electro Woman and Dyna Girl as well as The Bugaloos.

    I let my youngest watch iCarly and Phineas and Ferb. Mainly because I like them and I don’t feel as lame watching them when she’s with me.

    I don’t let her watch anything on ABC’s Family Channel. Seriously, what is “family-like” about Secret Life, Pretty Little Liars, and Greek?

  24. OMG, Happy trees!

  25. …what about SuperBook, Reading Rainbow, or 3-2-1 Contact? I agree that Sesame Street was numero uno, but those other three were also up near the top for me!

  26. Marcie Wilkinson December 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    There was also this “Greek/Roman Myths” animated show that came on weekend mornings. You know in those days – Free Love, hippies, and tolerance were going to ruin us all. The thought was that it would confuse children, but Henson insisted the show would be better if they appeared together.

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