Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, Remember That?

Here's another old Myspace blog that I dug up. This one's about my favorite cartoons and toys from my childhood. Enjoy.

To me, the kids’ shows that were popular when I was growing up in the 1980’s seemed to be a lot more creative and entertaining than most of the garbage that’s on TV now. I could be wrong, though. Maybe that’s just how I remember things. In reality, they were probably just as crappy as anything that‘s on the air today.
In any case, here are my thoughts on a few of my favorite cartoon shows and toys from my childhood:

G.I. JOE — This was my favorite show for a good year or two. G.I. Joe was some sort of military conglomerate that was constantly at war with a terrorist organization called COBRA. The two groups would get into frequent battles on the show, obliterating the countryside with bitchin’ lasers and explosions. When the dust settled at the end of each episode, G.I. Joe would always emerge victorious, and the members of COBRA would flee the battlefield, humiliated and overpowered.
There were also short little public service announcements at the conclusion of each show. The G.I. Joe dudes would talk to the audience and give everyone a good solid moral lesson. It’s a good thing they did, too. Thanks to G.I. Joe, I learned that it wasn’t okay to smoke crack or burn my house down.
I ate this stuff up when I was young; I couldn’t get enough of this show. After several months of religious viewing, however, a few points emerged that began to bother me.
First of all, nobody ever died during the battles. Nobody at all. With all the exploding crap and lasers flying all over the place, you would think that somebody would get hit by something. That never happened, though, and I soon realized what a lame concept that was. I know that you can’t exactly show bloodshed and carnage on a Saturday morning cartoon show, but for the love of God, have somebody sprain their ankle! Step on a freaking bug! Anything!
Nine times out of ten, the climax of the show would feature G.I. Joe blowing up COBRA’s secret base. They would shoot it with missiles and junk, literally decimating the building to rubble. I thought that was pretty cool, and I never had any problem with it until I noticed that COBRA always had a brand-new base the very next week. Where in the hell did they get that kind of financial capacity? Did they all have night jobs at the skating rink? Did they collect Home Depot coupons? More importantly, who were the building contractors who could assemble a state-of-the-art military compound in a week? I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, unless you construct the entire thing out of Styrofoam and toothpicks.
Once these thoughts began occurring to me, I knew I had grown too old for G.I. Joe, and a little part of my childhood died.

HE-MAN — He-Man was a show about a guy named Adam who was prince of a planet called Eternia. As if Adam wasn’t busy enough doing whatever it is princes do, he also had to serve as the sole means of law enforcement for the entire planet. Whenever Skeletor (the main bad guy) threatened to disturb the peace, Adam would magically transform himself into He-Man and go to work. He’d hand out parking tickets, direct traffic, or just plain beat the piss out of everybody if the situation dictated (and it often did).
I used to have damn near all of the action figures (or “dolls,” if you want to be blunt about it) that were associated with He-Man. I played with them a lot, but the male characters made me feel sort of strange. Every one of them was bursting with rippled muscles and wearing little more than a loincloth. That’s probably the reason why I sometimes get the overwhelming urge to drink apple martinis and watch “Oprah.”

GO-BOTS — I don’t remember if there was a TV show to go along with Go-Bots, but if there was, it probably sucked as badly as the toys did. Go-Bots were the ghetto version of Transformers. I bought Go-Bots when I really wanted a toy, but couldn’t afford anything good. This happened often, because I didn’t have a job at eight years old, and thus never had any money.
Go-Bots had the market cornered on all the stuff the Transformers franchise didn’t bother to touch. For instance, there were Go-Bots that transformed into lampshades, sewing machines and shag carpeting. If it was useless and no fun whatsoever to play with, there was a Go-Bot that transformed into it.

THE SUPERFRIENDS — This was the cartoon that featured all the characters from the DC comics crew. There were old standards like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, as well as lesser-known douchey superheroes like Aquaman and Green Arrow. They all spent their downtime at this place called the Hall of Justice, killing time by crank calling Chinese restaurants.
The only thing that really bugged me about this show was the pair of useless-ass superheroes known as the Wonder Twins. They were a dude and a girl—brother and sister, I think—who styled their hair with so much grease that even the Fonz turned his head in disgust. They also wore these ugly purple costumes that looked like they were stolen from Rainbow Brite’s closet.
The Wonder Twins’ crappy “superpower” was shape-shifting into stuff. That by itself sounds awesome, but there was a catch. One of the twins could only transform into an animal (which was cool, I guess), and the other twin could only transform into water. Wow, how compelling. You can transform into the most abundant resource on Earth. That’s got to be the dumbest superpower ever in the history of everything. What possible use is there for the ability to change yourself into water? Not much unless your archenemy is the Wicked Witch of the West.

MUPPET BABIES — This was a cartoon show that had a pretty long run in the 80’s. The set-up was this: It’s the Muppets, but they’re babies. Hence the title of the show.
The cast of characters included Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Rolf the Dog, Scooter, Skeeter, Animal, Bunson and Beaker (I think that’s all of them. It’s sad how I can remember stuff like this but I frequently find myself walking into the kitchen and forgetting what I went in there for).
The Muppet Babies spent their days wreaking havoc in their nursery, pausing only to receive sage advice from Nanny (the only adult on the show) during her occasional visits. I guess Nanny was supposed to be watching them, but she only showed up about twice per episode. Call me crazy, but leaving ten babies alone in a room for half an hour while you’re in a completely separate area of the house doesn’t sound like good business practice for a childcare professional. I sure as hell wouldn’t leave my kids with her.
This show was cool because it appealed to the power of imagination. The Muppet Babies were always thinking up ridiculous scenarios and making them come to life within the confines of the nursery. They also sang one or two songs during each episode which were actually quite melodic and well-written. Damn, I miss this show.

ALF — I mention this show because while it originated as a live-action sitcom, there was also a cartoon spin-off that came from it. For about a year or so, “Alf” was the coolest freaking thing on the planet. Everybody in my age group watched this show, laughing like hell at every word that came out of Alf‘s mouth.
The premise of “Alf” was as such: Alf is a short, furry alien who crash-lands his spaceship in the backyard of a normal suburban family. Wanting to avoid Alf’s dissection and anal probing at the hands of government officials, the family adopts him as one of their own, keeping his existence a secret to everyone else. Alf is a huge pain in the ass for the family, though, and makes their daily lives even more difficult by eating everything in the refrigerator and trying to murder their cat. Exactly why the family put up with this is beyond me, but they did, and the result was some damn fine television programming.

TEEN WOLF — This cartoon was a spin-off of a movie that starred Michael J. Fox. The set-up of the movie and the cartoon were the same: an introverted teenage kid sometimes changes into a fun-loving werewolf. The show chronicled the kid’s struggle to find his identity amidst his two personas.
Although the cartoon was pretty lame, the movie was decent for an 80’s flick. Michael J. Fox was fifty-three years old and still playing seventeen, as he often did in his starring roles.

PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE — I know this wasn’t actually a cartoon, but dammit did this show kick ass. Never before or since have I seen a television program so reminiscent of a happy LSD trip (not that I‘ve ever done LSD, but I can imagine). This show starred Pee-Wee Herman, and it showcased the wacky adventures he had inside his tricked-out house.
The cast of characters Pee-Wee shared the stage with were equally as bat-crap crazy as he was. There was Chairy, the talking chair; Conky the robot; Jambi the genie (who was little more than a floating head in a box—creepy); Floory, a talking section of the playhouse floor, and a ton of other stuff. If all that’s not a foundation for quality entertainment, I don’t know what is.
There were also some noteworthy actors who appeared on the show, namely Phil Hartman and Laurence Fishburne. Phil Hartman was a sea captain who came by the playhouse from time to time, and Laurence Fishburne played the character known as Cowboy Curtis, who was also a regular fixture in Pee-Wee’s social circle.
Pee-Wee’s run ended abruptly when Paul Reubens—the actor who played him—was arrested for jerking off in an adult theater. Just the thought of Pee-Wee Herman whipping out his wiener in public was enough to turn most of the general public off of the Pee-Wee brand, which was a damn shame. It was a great freaking show.

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