Apr 28

A Vast Wasteland

I find few things more irritating than the arguments of traditionalist scolds, especially the tired old tropes of “what about the children?” and “the good old days.” Generally speaking, with a bit of guidance children are quite capable of making their own decisions. Also, “the good old days” is often code for “nostalgia for an imagined past.”

I’ve been told Beachy sometimes watches television too mature for her. While I agree at her age she certainly shouldn’t be exposed to such things as graphic sex and violence, I assure you what she watches is much, much better than what I grew up with.

Seriously, would any children’s channel today air programming depicting this? (Click the image caps for video)

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This isn’t Porky Pig! Shocking!

Or this?

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No Curly? Outrageous!

Or this?

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No Sgt. Slaughter? Disgu … nah, this is still pretty hot.

Guess what? I watched all of the above and more during my formative years. Repeatedly. I didn’t even have to sneak in any Cinemax to do it.

Growing up in the 2T in the early 80s, where locally-produced kids’ programming was little more than a foreign legend, on a typical weekday morning you essentially had two options: soap operas or game shows. Guess which one I took? Yeah, there’s nothing like beginning an unexpected day off than with an hour with Bob Barker.

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“Cutting school again, eh Lane? Well, don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered.”

And that’s the high water mark. I was born in 1973, so for the sake of argument let’s say my prime years for children’s programming were between 1980 and 1985. Fine. Here’s what the world was like back then:

Children’s programming was limited to certain hours (usually school hours) on weekdays. You had Saturday morning cartoons which ended by 1 pm, and on Sunday you were flat out SOL. The golden age of animation was dead and buried by the mid-70s. There was no Cartoon Network or DreamWorks Studios. In short, no one was catering to kids very well. Even the pre-Pixar Disney spent about a decade dropping turds on theaters every couple years before they finally realized they should stick with fairy tales.

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And Martha Raye’s Polident ads were more entertaining than the early Disney Channel.

With few exceptions, children’s programming of the day fell into one of three categories:

-Prime time reruns and old short films not necessarily intended for children in the first place, including I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Flintstones, The Little Rascals (or Our Gang, whatever), The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. Throw in Leave it to Beaver and The Beverly Hillbillies too. What the hell.

-Reboots of old cartoons and TV shows, including The All-New Popeye Hour, The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, The Real Ghostbusters, the (apparently fake) Ghostbusters and various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo franchise.

-Shows which amounted to little more than hard-sell commercials, including G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Saturday Supercade, M.A.S.K., Challenge of the GoBots, and anything involving Care Bears, Shirt Tales, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, Popples, He-Man, She-Ra, the ThunderCats or Lazer Tag. It’s a wonder some nitwit TV executive didn’t greenlight a show about a fad puzzle game.

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Oh wait, they totally did.

So in addition to the torture, alcohol abuse and risque content noted above, what else did these shows depict to kids of the day? How about misogyny, gender and racial stereotypes, juvenile delinquency, frequent armed conflict, gratuitous violence, dangerous stunts, glorification of war, animal cruelty, terrorism, elder abuse, unrealistic life expectations, attempted genocide, reward for misbehavior and/or incompetence, borderline plagiarism, and commercialism so crass and over the top it would make even Vince Offer wince?

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Yeah, plagiarism. The Flintstones blatantly ripped off The Honeymooners.

I and millions of others suffered through long years of this drivel. Watching this stuff again just makes it worse, as one notices the shoddy production values one disregarded as a kid. Bright spots were few and far between. Off the top of my head I can only think of one animated series from the era that was contemporary, genuinely funny and not a 30-minute commercial for a piece of plastic.

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Even if he did drive on the wrong side of the road.

So there you have it. Programming on today’s children’s cable networks isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was 30 years ago. What’s more, I turned out just fine, and today’s world isn’t an amoral, dystopian void after all.

Indeed, I’m glad I wasn’t sheltered and allowed to watch only “wholesome” crap like Superbook and The Flying House. I probably would have shot up a Taco Bell by now.

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“More like, ‘Live No Más’ bitches! HA HA HA!”
Image credit: Coolcaesar

Feb 18

Thoughts on the Drive Home

Today is Presidents’ Day in the United States. Plenty of great sales of the “stack ’em deeper and sell ’em cheaper” variety. That’s what ‘Merika is all about.

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“Now with one-third less arsenic!”

Since I can’t spend the day punking banks by writing checks on dry ice, I suppose I’ll tell y’all about my weekend. Yesterday evening I drove home after a couple days visiting my daughter. The Command Center in Boise is about two hours away from the 2T. It’s a drive I’ve taken all my life. It’s also … how do I put this … desolate as all hell. When driven alone it gives one a lot of time to think.

Yesterday was a clear, crisp Sunday, very much like those I spent in the 2T as a boy. A typical Sunday in those days involved watching whatever PGA Tour event was on TV. To this day golf is the only sport Dad really gives a damn about. At tournament’s end I would resume the rigorous intellectual training which dominated my childhood.

The cultural significance of Hee Haw cannot be understated.

Those days are long gone. Yesterday was spent listening to a mix of Rush and the Cocteau Twins before the CD player in the staff car got too hot. Afterwards I had the radio on the local NPR station, although I understand 89.9 in Boise is not bad either. I’ll have to check it out.

Saturday I went to the movies with my daughter. We went to see Escape from Planet Earth, one of those Pixar-esque animated films. It was a cute enough movie. I’m sure we’ll get it on DVD once it comes out. I just wish I could have seen the end of it. Apparently Magic Valley Cinema 13 has never heard of an uninterruptible power supply. Also apparently they’re not aware every time some tanked-up idjut galoot crashes his 1992 Mercury Tracer into a power pole that parts of the 2T suddenly return to the 14th Century. At least we got free movie tickets out of it.

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But now that I think about it, perhaps the 14th Century in the 2T wasn’t that bad.

In spite of it all my daughter said the weekend was a win. That’s good enough for me.

That night I got a text from Myrtle saying she didn’t want to date anymore. The sorrow I felt was about the same as being told my $1 off coupon at Jack in the Box was no good anymore. For one, this is not the first time this has happened. For another, I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved in the first place. I guess that makes me single again, so… heeey sexy ladies!

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Ada County Style!

By the way, does anyone else have a problem with overheating car CD players? It annoys the shit out of me.