little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. This DVD
takes you to those wonderful bygone days when marketers first got wet for
the impressionable 1.3 bazillion baby boomers under age ten. You can just
hear the "ka-ching" in every candy bar and cheap toy shoved at the tiny,
flickering screen. They stop just short of saying, "do you know where
mommy's pocketbook is?" but they know they got us by the shorties and they
vow to never let go. And they never do, not even in this century.
this collection of the most beloved of these pioneer efforts, the adult
actors work themselves into exhaustion, the kids in the audience hook
themselves on sugar before our very eyes, and the advertisers find
less-than-subtle ways to bang us over the head with their lame-o products.
Don't fool yourselves. Nothing really has changed since then. We're not any
smarter than these rubes. We are still being manipulated by marketers. Kids
(and adults) are still being sucked in, albeit in more subtle ways.
Still, this collection is as chilling as it is charming, as television
invents itself as a boredom-killer and, although the tone is lowered
slightly, the formula basically remains to this day if you pay enough
attention and look away from the blinding spectacle.
marvel in a nostalgic haze as we witness these program's adorable peanut
galleries, filled with the darling moppets who will make America what it is
today, with its sky-high oil prices, falling dollar and depressed housing
course, television programming would greatly improve as the medium
eventually becomes more sophisticated (Sesame
Street, Zoom). For a brief shining moment, we get to see how
young, white America was being manipulated because their parents were
well-off enough to afford television receivers.
Let's quickly flip through the channels:
The mother (father?) of all kids' shows. We're immediately instructed to
greet all friends and strangers with the phrase "howdy doody." Of course,
the cease-and-desist of this tradition is what caused the downfall of
society and the burning of our cities. In the meantime, host Buffalo Bob
forces three kids to play the ukulele, which today would be considered child
This total rip-off of Howdy Doody bears witness to the very last time
you can send away for a "Lucky Spot" ring (only 15 cents and two Powerhouse
candy wrappers – cheap!). We are reminded (almost constantly): "don't be
left out. How would you feel if all your friends had the Lucky Spot ring and
you didn't have one?" Like crap, I guess. And speaking of crap, do they
still make Powerhouse candy bars?
Possibly the first interactive TV show, hosted by the smooth Jack Barry.
Winky Dink is a li'l cowboy cartoon character who needs your help crossing
bridges and smelling flowers and riding cars. How, you ask? By sending away
for a "magic window" that you place over your television screen and draw
upon with special crayons (only 50 cents – cheap!). Of course, one is
reminded of the Robert Klein joke that nobody ever bothered to send away for
the magic window; instead, kids just drew directly onto the screen, to their
parents' horror. Apparently, Winky consistently gets on Jack Barry's nerves,
but that doesn't stop him from reminding us, "You can't have as much fun
unless you have the Winky Dink kit." They figure that if you can
afford a TV set, you can afford a Winky Dink kit.
is an exercise in the lost art of one-sided conversation. A matronly
teacher-type soothingly lulls us as we suck at the teat of the old boob
tube. When she's not pimping Kix cereal (the most boring cereal ever
manufactured), she's proving her rainy-day-fun worthiness by blowing
bubbles, reciting a poem, and suddenly asking us if we know what a dentist
is. Before too long, we have to be instructed that Kix is "ready to eat" and
that it's good with milk. Now there's an idea! She also reminds us that
"we've done lots of things on this table this morning, haven't we?"
The Paul Winchell Show.
Believe it or not, a man and his dummy can be pretty compelling, especially
when he has an overly enthusiastic, adoring audience. Here, the dude with
the voice of a thousand cartoon characters ponders Christmas in the year
2000 (he gets it all wrong). Also, reaffirming that TV viewers will believe
anything, he tells us that "new blue Cheer" detergent is good for dishes as
well as laundry. Uh, okay. We're also given the urgent news that Camay now
contains cold cream, as "many a Camay bride will tell you." If only I had a
dollar for every Camay bride who told me that.
Smooth-as-silk Jack Barry is back as host of this panel show, sponsored by
(I'm not kidding) Geritol, Jr., the "blood-building tonic." Here, your
average (white) youngsters help typical taxpaying Americans with their
problems. All the while, Barry insists that it's all ad-lib. In fact, his
closing line is "out of the mouths of babes, oftime come gems." Some of
these gems include: "every time I see my father, I see him go to the
bathroom." Oooh, burn! The novelty is that the program is constantly
teetering on unpredictable kid chaos. The loose-lipped tykes may blurt out
something unintentionally scandalous. In a more serene moment, an unseen
housewife wins an Underwood portable typewriter for submitting the question,
"Do you think it's easier to be the mother or the father in the family?" The
consensus, of course, is that "a mother's work is never done."
The Pinky Lee Show.
Possibly the best joint in the collection. The singin'/dancin'/always movin'
Lee is too good for bland 50s America. He is almost literally shot out of a
cannon, ready to kill ya till ya die. His LA-based audience, sucking on
Pinky pops (lollipops) seem a bit more telegenic and more TV-savvy than
other TV studio audiences in smaller markets. He drags adults out to do
silly dances (ironically, ten years later, these dances would be all the
rage) and one child actually wins a live puppy. You'll also see a puppet tap
dancing (that's what I said) and Pinky wisely advises us that "we should
never lose our youth. Have some fun!" Done and done. Invite this man to your
Kids and Company.
This one stars Johnny Olsen, who will later make The Price Is Right's
"Come on down" one of the most familiar catch phrases on television. This
pro-American, über-patriotic show (in the shadow of McCarthyism) showcases
singing, tap dancing, baton twirling and monologues like "What Is America to
Me?" Heroes of the week include a boy who sucked snake venom from somebody's
foot, a boy mayor of Camden, NJ, and a former polio victim who wins a
cross-country trip (by bus!). Olsen also reminds us that he will be a guest
on Strike It Rich to try to win furniture for a farm family who lost
their house in a fire. Forget the dinette set and bring on the TV set! And
this was a slow week.
Inexplicably, this series ran for twenty years, with the popular pooch and
his (I mean her) assorted owners and moms. We wonder who is perkier: Lassie
or Timmy, and we do have to keep reminding ourselves that Lassie is a girl.
Even Timmy sometimes forgets. Here, mom and Gramps do a whole lot of sitting
at the kitchen table as mom darns socks, just like the can-do women of
today. Will Timmy and Lassie find trouble? You bet!
Of course, this program painfully illustrates for us a parable of today's
troubled political climate, but whatever. Again, the earth is doomed (borr-rring)
and in order to save the planet, Flash and his posse have to travel back to
the year 1953 (get it?). Flash's professor friend rightly observes that in
that particular year, "women knew their way around a kitchen more than they
did around a laboratory." What's interesting here is that the program was
filmed in the ruins of West Berlin, only a few years after the end of World
War II. Not sure why, but plenty of ruin and carnage to see in the
Gals with guns. We are reminded that Annie somehow manages to "hit the
entertainment bulls' eye every week with her hard ridin'." If you say so.
Annie may be a sharp shooter, but her acting is a bit dull, with such gems
as: "All right, drop your gun," and "All right, come on."
Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
I'm not sure which one is which, but what we have here are two puppets (not
Punch and Judy) vying for the attention of a live woman (I think). One of
them says, "I don't want to be classified. I'm an individualist." This must
be the very subtle subversion that would influence their viewing audience to
dance naked at Woodstock. For now, they pimp the new RCA Victor cabinet
console, complete with an automatic record changer for the new 45 rpm
records (only $199.50 – cheap!).
Time For Beany.
More in-your-sock-face puppet adventure, excruciating to all viewers older
than age three. At least it's not trying to sell you anything, and it gets a
seal of approval because it was created by puppetmaster extraordinaire Bob
Like television itself, this joint considers itself "an experiment in time
and space." We are asked to marvel at the invention of Roger the Robot, with
Captain Z-Ro skillfully giving us a demonstration. He warns us, "whatever
happens, let me handle it, and don't antagonize him," proving that Captain
Z-Ro was the original Dr. Phil. Through a tired plot point, Roger escapes to
San Francisco, where, of course, he wanders around completely unnoticed.
The Roy Rogers Show.
We are told that The Roy Rogers Show stars Roy Rogers. Makes sense.
Like his eventual fast-food chain, Roy's program moves fast, with
no-nonsense and plenty of fixin's. He's unflappable, which is a very good
quality for a cowboy hero. To boot, he's rootin' as well as tootin'. We have
no idea that the series takes place in the "modern day" until we spot a jeep
on the range. Roy's gal Dale is as loyal as his horse, Trigger, and both of
them look like they've just been to the beauty parlor. And avoiding death by
bullet is as easy as crouching behind a nearby rock. Wait till the end –
they sing "Happy Trails," and you'll want to sing along, and you'll have no
The Magic Clown.
If you're afraid of clowns, then you'll never sleep again after screening
this joint. He's hawking Turkish Taffy (only twenty cents – cheap!) and it's
available at all your favorite stores that have gone out of business, like
McCrory's and Woolworth's. This one is pretty much self-explanatory – a
clown who performs magic before a booming boomer audience. But more
importantly, the Turkish Taffy he is constantly pushing on you "gives you a
lot of pep." That's why the audience won't shut up.
Other than Mary Hartline, whose feminine charms and proto-mini-skirt gained
a reputation in early television for attracting as many fathers as kids to
this program, you'll immediately be informed about Mars Candy's Three
Musketeers and Snickers bars. In the early fifties, these candies were oddly
shaped and strangely wrapped, and all the Cub Scouts in the audience are
hopped up on them (is it any wonder that this generation would eventually be
hooked on drugs?). We also wonder if the other Super Circus cast
members are dwarfs, or if simply everybody was really, really short back
then. We're not told. There is also a heartfelt public-service-announcement
plea for girls (not boys) to become nurses. Makes sense: there was certainly
an epidemic of sugar rushes.
Cisco Kid. The
only selection here to be filmed in color, with majorly stereotyped
Hispanics, weak-willed women, poison darts, Alzheimer’s-ridden oldsters, no
African Americans, dehydrated horses and lots of gunfighting. Those were the
Sky King. Sort
of a Western in the air, but the plot and the series explanation is hazy.
All we know – and probably all we need to know – is that the Sky King parks
his airplane in the driveway, like a car. The series is brought to you by
Nabisco, who makes Oreos and other familiar snacks, but seems to no longer
manufacture Chiparoons (a pity). Here, all the buttons are pushed for our
entertainment attention: a blind boy hero and his lovable seeing-eye dog,
his kindly grandma who doesn't ask nothing from nobody and yet trouble still
finds her, a robbery, a shooting and a coyote hunt. All in less than thirty
minutes. You do the math.
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
This one takes place in Kenya with plenty of awkward film footage of
rampaging animals. As you can well imagine, there is absolutely no racial
stereotyping among the African natives and their tribal war. Sheena, as
white as snow, delivers the immortal line, "Sheena do not need gun. She use
spear." And yet she sounds studio trained. Still, be sure to internalize the
line and use it as often as you can. We also get a chimp for comic relief,
as if we weren't comically relieved enough. To say the least, not a lot of
Veteran character actor Andy Devine reads a story book to an adoring crowd,
lets a monkey run loose and passes himself off as a "hep cat." Andy leads
the crowd in a jingle for Buster Brown shoes that verges on a religious
intensity. In fact, Andy reminds his gang, "Don't forget church or Sunday
school." We're also treated to a film about Indians, all played by
Watch them all, feel superior, and then slowly realize that nothing much has
©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted:
July 10, 2008.