March 23, 2006

Nostalgia Revisited

I was reading this site today (I think because I needed to look up a name, but that’s how the real time wasting gets going) and now I am really sad that I am not seven years old and on my living room carpet, watching midday Nickelodeon. Nick, I miss you. And the people who never knew you would weep if they knew what they weren’t seeing, and at the crap they’ve been force-fed instead. I decided to do a little tribute to my erstwhile favorite channel—not recapping the shows, or describing them in detail, because you can follow the above link for that (which has done it better than I ever could) but letting you know what they meant to me, that you may point at the screen and slap your knee knowing that you were doing the same thing along with me. I have left off some things purposely, like The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock, because there’s really just too much to say. Maybe there’s a Jim Henson tribute entry on the horizon, but not until I can do it justice.

Buckle your Skidz, kids. Or at least, one side of them.

Clarissa Explains it All
This show was hilarious to me because my friend Tiff IS Clarissa. I don’t know who’s copying who, but they had the same hair, voice, opinions, inflection, life, laugh and clothing. She did not, as far as I know, have a “platonic” friend Sam who climbed in her window for the occasional unannounced visit, secretly hoping she was naked so they could make out on her pink neon NKOTB bedspread. Did Sam and Clarissa ever hook it up? I never watched enough to really care.

Belle and Sebastian
For all the times I remember watching this show, I don’t remember much about it—it was actually bigger with my older sisters than with me. A kid and a white St. Bernard that had a red scarf… solve crimes? Help people? Are looking for something? I think that was it. Looking for… something. Gypsies? Aw hell—I know more about David the Gnome. Speaking of the David: my little sister insists she saw an episode where Swift, David’s trusty fox and steed, dies. Killed by a poacher, or something. Is this true, or did she make it up?

Danger Mouse
Oh, it had everything. Britain, accents, talking mice, superspy appeal, a hamster sidekick, a scary villain, and puns. I have the entire collection on VHS, waiting for someone to love me enough to get me the DVDs. If I meet someone who knows who Danger Mouse is, I seriously consider marrying that person. And we know how I feel about marriage. “Cor, DM!” “Penfold, shush.” Hee! Classic!

Count Duckula
Actually a DM spinoff; Duckula was on the show briefly as a villain, in a much more dastardly aspect than on his own show, where he was a vegetarian. The best bit of this whole cartoon was the opening sequence, which tells of how Duckula’s faithful servants brought him back to life, mistakenly adding ketchup to his revival potion instead of blood. Hence the vegetarianism. Hey, I know people who’ve gone veg for stupider reasons. A source of timely impressions in my family remains to this day Nanny’s “I’ll get iiiiiit!”

Double Dare
We had the home game, which was way lamer than the show. Sure, we had the baskets on the head and the little rings to toss, but there was no slip & slide greased with chocolate pudding. And a complete lack of the final obstacle course, which pissed me right off, since I truly expected a slide decorated with giant lips and a gak-covered tongue with a flag at the bottom to pop out of a little 3x4 box, a la Mary Poppins’ handbag. So long, Marc Summers; see you on Unwrapped.

Today's Special
Oh, Jeff. My first love. A man who coordinates his outfits down to the magical flat cap, can sing and dance and gets hard on a moment’s notice (sorry, I had to. He was a mannequin. Yeah, I know, it’s not funny. Sorry). Jody annoyed me most of the time, with her goody-two-shoesing it all over the place, but my brother made up for that with his mean Sam Crenshaw impression. To this day, whenever we have eaten more than our fill, one of us can be expected to deadpan “I can’t believe I ate half the marshmallow” in our best Waldo the Magnificent.

Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics

I only remember the one about the golden goose, where the poor son of a farmer’s cow (or whatever) has to make the princess laugh, which he does with many funny faces and a bunch of disgruntled thieves stuck to his back. She marries him, which I liked because it was a nod to women’s lib, and I think they eat the goose. I forget. I do know that this was one of many anime imports, because the English dubbing was hilarious.

Hey Dude
Ah, the gripping saga of twenty-somethings pretending to be teens “working” at the Bar None Dude Ranch; AKA the adventures of Christine Taylor before she became Mrs. Ben Stiller. About a year ago, I bet my little brother he couldn’t sing the whole theme song. I should know better than to mess with a Sicilian when death is on the line; I lost five bucks. He even did his own accompaniment, and made it all the way through to the “killer cacti”. Heeeey, Duuuuuuude. Worth the cash.

The Little Prince
I myself can still sing this whole theme song. It’s worse than Hey Dude’s. I liked the little naked flower, and I remember I thought it was funny I was allowed to watch a topless cartoon. She was a real spitfire, that bloomin’ rose girl… thing. Also: little boy, living on a potentially explosive planet with a naked woman, catching shooting stars to go to other worlds = a metaphor for drug-addled celebrities living in California? You be the judge. [Hey—wasn’t “You Be the Judge” also a Nick show? Where kids came to ‘court’ with their ‘cases’, like bike thievery or non-payment of, like, a dollar? The audience wasn’t really the judge, though, they were the jury; the judge was a barely-humanoid paperboard cutout with a black robe and barrister wig stapled on, with applause meters for eyes. It must have been a real show, because it still haunts my nightmares, that thing. Judging me. [shudders] Anyway, I forget what that show was called, since reality shows were pretty short-lived back in the day. Forget green bangle bracelets—how can we bring that trend back?]

You Can't Do that On Television
I once “dated” a kid in the third grade because he had episodes of this show on tape, and I thought that was cool. I think we broke up after I saw them all. It’s one of the many Canadian imports, and is most commonly known as “The One Alanis Was On”. Yes, it is true. I once wanted my hair cut really boy-short, and I remember saying to my mother “Do it like Alanis”. That’s exactly what it turned out like, too, and for a year, between the hair and the purple parachute pants, I was convinced I was a rock star. No, I have no pictures, try not to choke on your schadenfreude. And speaking of Alanis / Canada / bad ideas in general…

Out of Control
Dave Coulier. He oughta know… better. I might have watched more often if he had been wearing Diz’s makeup instead.

Pinwheel
My sister, Lord love her, gave me two DVDs worth of Pinwheel and Today’s Special last Christmas. Watching them now scares the life out of me. I love it. I had no idea the puppets were so creepy—I guess as children, we’ll accept anything as reality, which scares me even more.

Bananaman
This tale of how a three-foot-tall toddler can become a towering, cleft-chinned superhero deftly emphasizes the importance of getting your fruit and veg—a little like Popeye, except bananas taste good, and don’t give you a salty squint or massive forearms [insert “massive forearms” joke here]. All together, now, in your best Middle-Aged British Man Accent: “But when Eddic eats a bahnahnah, he becomes… BAHNAHNAHMAN!” In my book, second only to Danger Mouse.

Salute Your Shorts
Now we’re moving into my adolescence. I was about thirteen when this was on, and I thought the writing was bad. Well, I thought “This show isn’t funny”, but that’s the critique I gave a lot of shows when the writers thought we should laugh at fat people and fart jokes. I was not their target audience.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Nick’s answer to Goosebumps. I actually think R.L Stine had something to do with this series… or am I making that up? I dunno. I do know it was the part of SNICK we usually skipped in favor of going to the Dairy Barn, or down to The Little Store for a Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pie, which we bit the end off and ate the custard out with a spoon. Ditto with those Oreo Giants, which were basically a three-inch pat of sugared lard on a chocolate flavored cookie. It’s amazing we ever slept.

Ahhh! Real Monsters
Most of the voice actors from this show do Rugrats now, including the chick who does Tommy (she’s badass, by the way). The show was a little bit gross for me, and I think the best bits were recreated later on through Phil & Lil. That said, I really like Crumb’s hairy armpits. What?

Adventures of Pete and Pete
Moving on…

Doug
I remember this as the only cartoon my father watched with us, because he identified with Doug’s ‘Charlie Brown’ quality. I also had a friend called Doug who was much like his cartoon counterpart, although he did not have a crush on a girl called ‘Mayonnaise’ with a questionably Southern accent and even more questionable tan; I always thought Patty was a serial killer, or at least a con artist, trying to gain Doug’s trust with her “innocent”, wily ways (I mean, really—'mayonnaise' is so a fake name you come up with on the spot). It took me about a year of watching the show to realize that there were people of every color spectrum on the show—Doug’s best friend was blue, and I never had any problem accepting it. Doug: poster child for Eracism.

Do go visit the site for yourself. And when you do, make sure to scroll all the way down to relive the short cartoon segments; sadly, they do not reference that bit that taught us about Eric the Red, Greenland, and the Earle of Sandwich.

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