‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’, the new documentary about legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers, might be one of the most acclaimed films of the year. Many of our readers likely grew up with ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’. What other kids’ TV series do you remember watching in your earliest formative days?
‘Sesame Street’ should be a given for this topic. For almost 50 years, that has been the go-to educational program for very young children, with good reason. What else did you watch?
As a child of the early 1970s, I was raised in front of a mediocre CRT TV like most of my generation. We got famous American shows like ‘Sesame Street’ and eventually ‘The Muppet Show’, and those had an indelible effect on my youth. (I named my first cat Muppets.) Raised in Toronto, I was also exposed to some definitive Canadian content like ‘Polka Dot Door’, ‘Mr. Dressup’ and ‘The Friendly Giant’ – shows that played on my set far more often than the likes of ‘Mister Rogers’ or ‘Romper Room’. When I was too young to do so, I’d gorge on cartoons like ‘Rocket Robin Hood’ and ‘Spider-Man’, and would dig on the ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ interstitials, but it was fundamentally the work of Henson and co., along with the TV Ontario/CBC/PBS children’s programming, that really fueled my young viewing habits.
Beyond the typical 1980s kids fare on TV (‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’, ‘Sesame Street’, etc.), I remember first watching ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends’. My dad was never really one for television (aside from watching the Red Sox lose and the occasional episode of ‘Real Stories of the Highway Patrol’), but he loved ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’. Perhaps it reminded him of growing up with his Russian father? In any case, that was my cartoon of choice too, and it really grew on me. As a teeny tot I loved the silly accents and slapstick gags. Later, as my world became larger than just my family and kindergarten, I started to really enjoy Sherman and Peabody’s adventures through time. And the puns! Finally understanding the jokes behind the jokes made me feel like I was growing up, and gave me another thing to talk to my old man about. Even today, if Moose and Squirrel are on the television, he will pause to watch it. Even if he has seen the gag dozens of time, it will still get a chuckle out of him, and that gets a chuckle out of me.
With older sisters around, I recall being stuck with ‘She-Ra’ and ‘Jem’ for good chunks of time, while I of course sought out ‘Transformers’, ‘He-Man’, ‘Mask’ and ‘Voltron’. When things got tough (as in, the living room, cable-equipped TV was on ‘Jem’), I was stuck with a little TV that did not pick up much. You know what that means – ‘Sesame Street’. I honestly think I like ‘Sesame Street’ more now than when I was a kid. In contrast, ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’ was reliably decent.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
There are all kinds of caveats here, so bear with me for a moment. The first TV series I can (1) clearly remember watching (2) as it aired and not necessarily in reruns (3) and was strictly produced with kids in mind and not just something I was tuning into with my folks, was ‘Pandamonium’.
I can say with just about absolute certainty that anyone reading this has either never heard of ‘Pandamonium’ or has somehow scrubbed it from their minds. That’s understandable, seeing as how this short-lived cartoon from 1982 is about as forgettable as they come. Three talking pandas (who could join together as a single, composite panda with magic powers) jet-set across the globe to find pieces of a shattered pyramid before an evil wizard could wrap his spindly fingers around ’em. Believe it or not, this sloppily animated series was an early effort by Marvel Productions, decades before cinematic universes and all that.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen ‘Pandamonium’ come up in any of those nostalgic “Hey, remember the ’80s?” lists. Even back when I was around 4 and this was still on the air, I’m not sure any of my friends ever talked about it. It was barely a blip on anyone’s radar before fading away, but for whatever reason, I remember.
It may be uncomfortable to remember now, but Bill Cosby was a powerful force in children’s entertainment during the 1970s and ’80s. I watched a hell of a lot of ‘Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids’. I also remember him hosting ‘Picture Pages’, though I think I was older by the time he took over that show.
Less controversially, ‘Captain Kangaroo’ dominated a lot of my early TV viewing. Aside from his red jacket, I can’t remember a single thing about the show today.
Tell us in the Comments about the shows you watched when you were a wee tyke.