Saturday, March 29, 2008

For my favorite Wookiee

Miss you, pal.In honor of my son Harry, who would've been 3 today, I offer you The Star Wars Holiday Special, which centers around Chewbacca, who is trying to get home to celebrate Life Day with his family.

I'm always conflicted about posting about Harry. Some might consider it morbid for me to keep bringing him up year after year, but I'm always thinking about him.

When people ask how many kids I have, I feel guilty if I say two, but I don't want to bring everyone down by telling the story over and over. But I still want people to know who he was, even if he was only here for a short time.

Feel free to make a donation in Harry's name to either here, here, or the charity of your choice.

As promised, here's the special. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Oh, if you can make it all the way through, color me impressed. I still haven't quite made it yet.

Friday, March 28, 2008

And now these messages

While we're waiting for CBS' Saturday morning lineup, we'll be back after this:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

NBC's Saturday mornings in 1974

Click to embiggenate.
Having already covered ABC's Funshine Saturday lineup from 1974, this time, we'll take a look at NBC's roster. I've always considered NBC to be the weak sack network when it comes to Saturday mornings, partly because they usually had the shortest lineups, and partly because they showed The Smurfs. Not surprisingly, NBC would be the first network to drop an official Saturday morning cartoon lineup.

But in 1974, they were plugging along with a few winners.

7 a.m. The Addams Family

While I loved the classic 60s sitcom, this 70s animated version just didn't do anything for me. Given that this was right in the middle of the whole movement to improve Saturday morning TV by eliminating anything less than wholesome, I wonder why anyone would try to make a cartoon about a macabre family in the first place.

But hey, at least Jodie Foster got some voiceover work as Pugsley.

7:30 a.m. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch

If my son had been born when I was, aside from having some bizarre family pictures, he likely would've been obsessed with this cartoon, instead of the movie Cars, as he is now. Yet another Hanna Barbera product, this followed the adventures of Wheelie, a red VW Beetle and his vehicle pals. Honestly, it got to the point in the mid-70s that a person could tell apart half the HB shows even at gunpoint.

I should point out that despite the title, the Chopper Bunch were not Wheelie's pals; instead they were a group of tough-guy vehicles. Here's the opening:

And just because I like you, here's one of the episodes that aired on the day in the TV Guide I got these listings from. Oh, it's dubbed. In Portuguese. Enjoy!

8 a.m. Emergency +4

This show was right up my alley. I remember watching Emergency all the time and totally digging it--despite having no memory of any actual episodes. This cartoon version added four teens (hence the +4 in the title) who made up an ambulance crew who'd help out Gage and DeSoto. And because it was against federal law not to do so, the kids were saddled with a few wacky pets. If not for cartoons, I never would've known what a mynah bird was, let alone that they could help rescue me from a natural disaster.

8:30 a.m. Run, Joe, Run

Falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit, our hero is on the run from the authorities, going from town to town, helping out those in need. You'd almost think this was a cartoon version of The Fugitive but for the fact that Joe was a German shepherd, accused of attacking his master. No, I'm not kidding. Look at the credits if you don't believe me. As far as I know, Joe was not looking for a three-legged dog who was the real culprit.

9 a.m. Land of the Lost

Probably the coolest show in the lineup, LotL featured the Marshall family, who had the terrible misfortune to--wait, you know what? Watch the opening credits. That'll tell you everything you need to know:

Now that is a damn fine theme song. I miss theme songs that tell you specifically what the show is about. I still don't understand why the lyrics refer to "Marshall, Will, and Holly" if the dad is Rick Marshall. The delightfully cheesy effects made this show an afternoon favorite in syndication as well as a Saturday morning classic.

I would love to hear the Meat Puppets do a cover of this song. Don't know why, but I just would.

9:30 a.m. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

Back for a second season, this Krofft show featuring everyone's favorite reluctant sea monster gained a new character: Sheldon the Sea Genie (sure, why not?), played by the ever-butch Rip Taylor. Sigmund was still not evil, he still looked like a walking lump of kelp, and the laugh track didn't help.

10 a.m. Star Trek

The voyages of the starship Enterprise continue in animated form for a second if incredibly brief season. With only six new episodes, that meant a lot of reruns from the previous season. But it also had the first appearance of a holodeck on Star Trek, in the episode "The Practical Joker." That's got to count for something, right?

This was a fun show to watch, though it always seemed so serious because of the sparse musical score--compare with the Spock-Kirk fight music in "Amok Time", for example. And you can now buy the DVDs and make a drinking game out of it. Every time there's a close-up shot of a character half framed with another in the background, take a shot. Every time Jimmy Doohan does a voice for a character other than Scotty, wet your finger with the drink of your choice and let it evaporate. Any more than that, and it could mean a hospital trip.

Well, they didn't have a lot of shows that year, but they got some fairly decent ones. Next time, it's CBS' turn to shine. And given that their lineup ran from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., that's a lot of shining.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1974 Saturday morning lineups: Fanriffic!

Saturday morning TV was a big part of my childhood. Getting up far earlier than I would on a school day, I settled in for a full morning of programming. Add to that a bowl or two of Count Chocula or Waffelos, and it's a wonder I was able to dress myself.

Those of you who also woke up early on Saturdays know what I'm talking about; for a few hours, we were in control of the TV (if we were the oldest, of course). It was like being in our own little world. I hesitate to say something schmucky like it being a magical time (especially when I remember some of those shows), but it was a small part of my week I looked forward to.

Click to embiggen, especially if you are old like me.That said, I thought I'd pore through my meager collection of TV Guides to compile a look at those Saturday mornings of yesteryear. Because it's all about me, I'm starting with the fall of 1974, my first television season of existence. And no, I wasn't watching the cartoons quite yet, but I had to start somewhere, and this seemed like a good start.

With the help of my Sept. 14, 1974, San Francisco Metropolitan area TV Guide, here's the first part of our look at Saturday morning.

I developed an allegiance for ABC early on, as that's the network on which I watched Super Friends, one of my all-time favorites. As such, I'm starting with the ABC Saturday morning lineup, which they called ABC's Funshine Saturday.

ABC's Funshine Saturday

7 a.m. Yogi's Gang

On one level, it makes sense that a forest-dweller would take an interest in the environment. On the other hand, not if it's Yogi Bear, prime pilferer of pic-a-nic baskets. But that's the premise of this well-meaning but dull Hanna-Barbera effort that featured Yogi, Boo-Boo, and the H-B all-stars flying around in an ark on the lookout for somewhere untouched by pollution. They encountered Mr. Smog, Lotta Litter, and other ecology-related villains, most of which are name-checked in the opening credits.

Only 15 episodes were made, and since it started in 1973, these are just repeats. Not exactly a rousing start to a Saturday morning lineup, is it? Judge for yourself:

7:30 a.m. The Bugs Bunny Show

A perennial favorite, though I spent my formative TV-watching years catching the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show on CBS. But still, you can't go wrong with Warner Bros. cartoons, especially in the days where they weren't edited to remove violence.

8 a.m. Hong Kong Phooey

There are two things that keep this show about Penrod Pooch, a mild-mannered janitor who is also a martial-arts-wielding canine superhero, from totally sucking: Scatman Crothers, who voiced the title character, and the kickass theme song, also performed by Mr. Crothers. It also tried to introduce the word "fanriffic" into kids' vocabularies, but I never remembered hearing anyone use it.

8:30 a.m. The New Adventures of Gilligan

Even in 1974, everyone had seen Gilligan's Island reruns a bajillion times, so why not make a cartoon of it? Aside from a cartoon version of this particular show being, well, redundant. Jane Webb (a Filmation studios voice staple) provided voices for Mary Ann and Ginger in this incarnation.

The best I could find was this clip of the closing credits, alas.

9 a.m. Devlin

Not only was kung-fu popular in the 70s, but so were motorcycles. Evel Knievel, stuff like that. So naturally, kids were treated to a motorcycle daredevil of our own: Ernie Devlin. Looking at the animation in the intro, I can't say I feel like I really miss seeing it. Eesh. Apparently no one else particularly dug it, as it only ran a few months.

Here's an interesting fact: Devlin's brother was voiced by Micky Dolenz.

9:30 a.m. Super Friends

While I profess a great love for this show, 1974 brought repeats of the first season: the hour-long, incredibly preachy, boring episodes with Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog. But still, without these cartoons (featuring the first and only cartoon appearance of Green Arrow for decades), we wouldn't have had Challenge of the Super Friends a few years later.

Plus, I thought Wendy was cuter than Jayna anyway.

Moving on...

2 p.m. Korg: 70,000 B.C.

Sadly, I don't think I ever caught this live-action show that showed family life circa 70,000 B.C., only a few years after George Burns had hit the vaudeville stages. But hey, it was narrated by Burgess "Time Enough at Last" Meredith, so that gives it a few coolness points with me. And hey, it lasted longer than Cavemen.

Oh, snap.

2:30 p.m. These Are the Days

You've got your Waltons, you've got your Little House on the Prairie, and the folks at Hanna-Barbera. Put them together, and you've got the old-timey fun of These Are the Days, a show about the adventures of the Day family. I managed to miss this one as well, but I can't imagine the little kid version of me would have dug it too much.

But because I care about you, the reader, here are the opening credits. In Spanish. ¡Muy bueno!

Well, that's what ABC was peddling as of fall 1974. A fairly dismal turnout, really. But I say this as someone who missed the first two months of the season, so your mileage may vary.

Tune in next time for either the 1974 CBS or NBC lineup; whichever tickles my fancy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What is your earliest memory?

Memory is a weird thing. I've been told most of my life that I have an unusual memory. Actually, the word "unusual" comes up an awful lot, but that's another story...

I remember dreams I had when I was a kid (just the most vivid ones), and I remember specific conversations with people. And we all know about all the useless pop culture crap that has taken up permanent residence in my brain.

But the crap of it is that I don't really have an active control over what gets stored and what doesn't. I can try, sure (phone numbers, anniversaries, children's names, etc.), but every now and then I'll see something on TV or in a book or on YouTube, and there's like an explosion of memory. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming.

But I was thinking about it, and I'm curious as to what other people's earliest memories are. With that, if you could go ahead and share your earliest memory in the comments, that would totally rock.

I'll start, since it was my idea.

My earliest memory is being about 2 years old, walking into my parents' bedroom, where their black-and-white TV had a rerun of The Brady Bunch playing. While I was watching that, I remember the distinct sensation of the back of my diaper expanding.

That's about it. Sort of a memory fragment, but that's the earliest I remember without aid from a picture.

Knowing me, there's a very good chance that my last memory will also involve filling my diaper, watching a rerun of The Brady Bunch.

All right, now it's your turn. Join in the fun!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A tale of resurrection!

As much as it galls me to say so, I owe this discovery to my brother and a phone call he made to me.

At first, I thought he might be pulling a prank on his older, better-looking (and more modest) brother. This wouldn't exactly be a stretch to think he'd do something like this. But, as I reflected, he knows there are certain things that we don't joke about, and this was one of them.

So after taking care of a few errands, I went to recon the location he provided me. I walked in, trying to look nonchalant, as if I weren't on a mission of dire importance.

I peered down aisle after aisle until I found the one that could provide happiness or torment. I thought for a second that I'd been too late; that I'd missed my chance, but then I saw them. In the distance I heard trumpets and the Hallelujah chorus.

There, before my myopic eyes: Hostess Pudding Pies.

Back up in your ass with the resurrection.
The very same pies that have prompted me to write letter after letter to Hostess, pleading and indirectly threatening (Twinkie the Kid can now walk the streets safely) for the return of my once-loved fattening pastry delight.

I grabbed all four on the shelf and made my way to the cashier, where I paid just under $6 for something I hadn't eaten in nearly two decades.

Yes, I'm that old and pathetic.

I enlisted my wife to document the occasion. Now keep in mind, in a perfect world, they would have been the vanilla pudding pies, but as evidenced by gas prices, the continued fame of Paris Hilton, and my hairline, we don't live in a perfect world.

I cautiously inspected the first Pudding Pie.

Fee, fi, fo, focolate. I smell Hostess' synthetic chocolate.
All right, so far, so good. But did they taste OK?

1 Guy, 4 Pies is much more pleasant than 2 Girls, 1 Cup.
Huzzah! All is chocolatey and so sweet I almost needed insulin.

I have yet to see if Hostess has brought back the vanilla pie as well; I'm going to be writing them tomorrow. But this just goes to show you, kids: whine about something long enough, and you'll get it just so you'll shut up.

Nacho cheese Cheetos, anyone?