Weekend Roundtable: Embarrassing Kids’ TV Shows

The fact that something as cheesy as ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ could get a big-budget theatrical reboot really ought to make a lot of adults who used to watch that show cringe. Kids don’t exactly have the best taste in entertainment programming. What TV shows from your youth are you embarrassed to admit that you watched… and watched a lot?

Shannon Nutt

There were a lot of fun sci-fi TV shows growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, but the one I’m most embarrassed today to confess that I watched religiously was ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century‘. The series was, of course, based on the classic comic strip/movie serial character, but it was really just an excuse to show women in scantily clad and tight-fitting outfits. Buck (played by Gil Gerard) seemed hip and cool in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Watching these episodes today, he just comes off as a sexist horn-dog. Yeah, maybe a few episodes weren’t totally schlock, but ‘Buck Rogers’ is one of those classic TV shows that doesn’t hold up at all.

M. Enois Duarte

1980s television was littered with a variety of bad programming and some of the wackiest ideas for turning your brain into gray mush. Some of my guilty pleasures are ‘The Phoenix’, ‘Manimal’, ‘Shadow Chasers’, ‘Automan’ and many more. ‘The Greatest American Hero’ will forever have my undying loyalty! However, the one show I am ashamed to admit watching on a regular basis and also embarrassed to have enjoyed at the time is ‘Small Wonder‘.

I honestly cannot say what exactly I liked about the sci-fi comedy sitcom, but the preadolescent boy in me did for whatever reason. I remember only watching the first two seasons of the show, which I guess is because I started outgrowing it, but I recall thinking that the gadgets and seeing a girl with robotic parts were pretty cool. The best part were the endless shenanigans and hijinks involving Vicki (“V.I.C.I.”) trying to act human and learning about cultural norms while her adopted brother protected her secret. Of course, their nosy next-door neighbor made this a difficult task.

Brian Hoss

Remember ‘ALF‘? The furry alien that ate cats while hiding out in suburbia was a big deal for a time. Not only did I like it, I actually missed the show when it went off the air. Trying to watch it in the last twenty years, though… wow, has the magic gone.

Tom Landy

I’m going with one of the earliest animated series specifically created to sell toys: ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe‘. This sword-and-sorcery ‘Conan the Barbarian’ rip-off had many colorful characters and I will admit that the action figures were pretty cool, but the show itself was repetitive and really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’ve also made it known before that when I was a kid, I thought ‘The A-Team‘ was the coolest thing ever. I watched it faithfully every week and had all of the action figures, including the team’s famous GMC Vandura. Watching it now as an adult, I can see how hilariously awful some – OK, most – of the episodes actually were. Even so, I’ll admit that I still watch an episode every now and then for nostalgia’s sake and/or whenever I need a really good laugh.

Luke Hickman

I was obsessed with ‘Knight Rider‘ as a kid. For me, that was the best that television had to offer. It had everything: David Hasselhoff and his curly hair, plus a sweet Pontiac Trans Am that was loaded with secret weapons and an artificially intelligent supercomputer with a voice and an attitude. (Imagine how ecstatic I was when I watched ‘Boy Meets World’ for the first time and heard the voice of K.I.T.T. come from Mr. Feeny!) Whenever Michael and his denim or leather found themselves in a situation they couldn’t roundhouse kick their way out of, the super car K.I.T.T. would come to the rescue. Each episode featured recycled shots of K.I.T.T. traveling full-speed down an empty highway and driving onto the ramp of a large tractor-trailer. I would get as close to the screen as I could to figure out how a stunt driver could get the vehicle onto the stationary ramp without rocketing through the trailer.

Unfortunately, any value that ‘Knight Rider’ had for me as a child has completely eroded. It’s painfully cheesy. The only show that holds up even worse is ‘Airwolf’, but I’m saving that card for another Roundtable topic.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I’ll always have a soft spot for the original ‘G.I. Joe‘ animated series, but it never really occurred to me as a tyke how ridiculous it was. One week, the Joes would square off against the ghosts of a WWI pilot, a Roman centurian and a Mongolian princess. The next, the Dreadnoks form a hair metal band (belting out subliminal messages) to fill Cobra’s coffers, only to be taken down by female Joes posing as groupies. I guess Cobra would eventually be well-funded enough again to clone dinosaurs, but they couldn’t cough up enough cash to clone more than a measly three.

Shipwreck’s parrot Polly gets zapped and grows to a thousand times his original size. Sgt. Slaughter is mistaken for Hercules when Cobra soldiers and Joes alike are flung back to ancient Greece. A colossal bacterium the size of a city block is felled by bazookas filled with apples. A whole episode was built around a window washer with a funny accent. I wouldn’t call ‘G.I. Joe’ a guilty pleasure or anything, but given what a snarky, sarcastic kid I was, I wonder why I never wondered, “Hey, wait a minute…”

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

I have to say, ‘Land of the Lost‘ hasn’t held up as well as I expected. Those Sleestaks seemed pretty scary at 7-years-old, but when I stumbled upon old episodes on Netflix, the low budget effects and cheese factor were hard to ignore. My kids still enjoyed it enough to watch several episodes, but the show didn’t make it into regular rotation in our house. And WTF was that with the dad? He disappears while playing with pylons and magically Uncle Jack is transported to the Land of the Lost to take over where daddy left off? Contract dispute, perhaps? Even with its flaws, the series had a certain charm that did NOT carry over to the Will Ferrell movie remake.

But that theme song, though… “Marshall, Will and Holly… On a routine expedition…” Some things live on in the dark reaches of your consciousness forever. (BTW, you’re welcome for that earworm.)

Josh Zyber

I made a deal with Adam that he could pick ‘G.I. Joe’ so long as I could make fun of his beloved ‘He-Man’ (which, for the record, I watched the hell out of and owned plenty of the toys). But then Tom already went there. When E. mentioned ‘Small Wonder’, my brain suddenly shot over to ‘Out of This World‘ – a similar high-concept (read: terribly cheesy) 1980s sitcom. This one’s about a perfectly average, blonde and bright-eyed all-American teenage girl who learns on her thirteenth birthday that her father was a space alien and she has super powers. The most notable of the powers was the ability to freeze time by holding her hands in front of her and touching her index fingers together. I cannot tell you how often I fantasized about being able to do that myself, even many years after the show was canceled. I still think about it sometimes today.

Little Evie’s dad is never seen on the show, but he communicates with her via a fancy extraterrestrial walkie-talkie device, and was voiced by former box office superstar Burt Reynolds, then at a desperate low point in his career and finances. As I recall, the show’s theme song was a jaunty cover of “Swinging on a Star.” As an adult, lead actress Maureen Flannigan would go on to have a recurring role on ‘7th Heaven’, which somehow seems fitting.

Tell us in the Comments about the TV shows that were some of your favorites as a kid but seem embarrassing to look back on now.


  1. Csm101

    They’ve all been mentioned. Manimal, Automan, Knight Rider. The one that sticks out the most is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I recently watched a few minutes of it on Netflix and it was Cringer inducing. Pun intended. That was one of my most beloved cartoons from my childhood and also one of my favorite toy collections. I actually still own quite a few of them. Watching those few minutes of it really tainted my beloved memories of the show and I think it best to leave it alone and not further ruin those fond memories…but man was it bad!

  2. Plissken99

    I grew up on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.. so I HATED Power Rangers lol. Just repackaged Ninja Turtles with crappy production.

  3. DarkMonk

    Anything from Sid and Marty Kroft. (Sigmund and the Sea Monster H.R. Puffinstuff)
    These were kid’ s shows that were CLEARLY made by people high on LSD and pot. They are psychedelic and rife with innuendo. The early Spider-Man 70’s cartoon suffered from the same drug induced madness – with crazy jazz music and people too high to realize they had Spider-Man always swinging ABOVE THE CITY SKYLINE!! (Swinging from what?! The clouds?!!)

  4. Thulsadoom

    Holy cr…. I’d totally forgotten about ‘Out of This World’. I used to watch all of those, but unlike many other 80s shows, I’d totally forgotten about it. I sense some YouTube coming on!

  5. I was actually considering “Land of the Lost” since some of those episodes look horribly cheesy and are far from well-acted. Still, the premise is so good and some of the episodes really knocked it out of the park for a “kid’s” TV show. Too bad they screwed up the reboot attempt a few years ago by trying to make it a comedy. A “serious” reboot of the show has the potential to be fantastic.

    • “Buck Rogers” was another favorite of mine, back in the day. “Beedeebeedeebeedee – what a body!” Good call! “Incredible Hulk,” the original “Battlestar Gallactica” and “The Night Stalker” were also shows I eagerly looked forward to each week. I went back to BG when the Blu-ray set came out and it was still kinda fun but definitely lost a bit due to its effects not holding up so well.

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