Last week I talked about five things I kind of missed by being an 80’s kid. Today I wanted to touch on a few things I was lucky enough to experience.
I know it's hard to believe, but there was a time when MTV actually showed music videos! All day! I used to sit there for hours watching, and they even had "v-j's" to introduce the songs. My favorite was Martha Quinn, man did I like her. I know when they dumped that format it was still decent; they had Remote Control and Beavis and Buthead among other things. Still, I miss the good old days. Then VH1 came along and went the same route. What on Earth do these networks show now? I can’t remember the last time I turned either on.
#4. Birth of Syndicated Cartoons
Until the mid-80's programmers didn't believe that new cartoons would work during the week, so kids were stuck with reruns of Saturday morning stuff. That was until the mid-80's when a little show premiered called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Not only was this watched, it was a mega-hit. Yes, I watched it every day for a while twice a day if memory serves. The success led to other first run cartoons during the week including G.J.Joe, Transformers, She-Ra, Thundercats, DuckTales, and later on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman: The Animated Series and the X-Men cartoon I never watched. But He-Man was the first, and I enjoyed every second of it. Yes some people say these shows were just thirty minute commercials for toys, but I never understood the problem with that. Don't kids play with toys? Are there people who really thought kids had no interest in the toy area of stores until these shows came along? And even if it’s true, it's still the parents responsibility to decide what they are going to purchase, isn't it? These shows were awesome, how awesome? Well, there’s a reason why Hollywood keeps trying to revive them as movies. Transfoerms and G.I.Joe sucked, maybe a Master of the Universe movie will work (oh wait, they did that in the 80’s…) The cartoons were awesome, 'nuff said.
I don’t mean Family Channel; I am talking about the good old days of network television. It’s hard to believe but around 1983 many experts thought sitcoms were dead. Nah, that would take another thirty years or so. That’s because of a little show called The Cosby Show which revived the format and got people excited about sitcoms again. What people may not realize, and the thing I really miss, is the family feel that the three networks had. This was especially true of NBC but ABC didn’t do so bad (it’s hard to believe, but CBS was hardly a blip on the radar in my day). What I mean by family is that people would wacth the show together and it felt like the shows on the networks were all part of a larger family that you were lucky enough to be a small part. It’s kind of like TGWTG is today. For example, during the 80’s one of NBC’s slogans was “Come Home to NBC”, because the idea was you’d come home to your family at the end of a long day and that, in a way, included the network. You really cared about the shows and watching them was a natural part of your routine. In 1985 there was a prime time special on NBC called “Let’ All Be There” where the casts of every show on the network gathered to promote the upcoming season. I would be lying if I said I remembered that special real well, but I do remember that special connection you had in those days. It’s why when shows like Happy Days or MASH went off the air, it was an event. It was like losing a cherished friend or family member! In today’s fast paced world of 150 channels, DVR’s, inane reality shows, and of course the internet people just don’t form those kinds of bonds with sitcoms and dramas. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things I listed, I just miss that era when watching television as a family was a real experience and something to be treasured and enjoyed. A lot of young people wonder why people in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s get so nostalgic about those days. Well, I just explained one reason why in a nutshell.
#2.Bob Hope Specials
It's hard to believe, but there was a time when celebrities would have specials. And I don't mean just at Christmas, all year round! These were like little variety shows with sketches and songs, and celebrities. They had specials for every holiday not just Christmas. Then they had specials which had nothing to do with holidays, they were just meant for fun. Carol Burnett had several like one with Robin Williams, and others with her good friend Julie Andrews. Dick Clark produced and starred in many specials. There was Circus of the Stars which I frankly didn't like, birthday and anniversary shows. Disney was always cranking specials out which were loads of fun. John Denver and The Muppets even did a Colorado holiday special (which for years I confused with the Christmas one--that still pisses me off!!) which had them all going to the great Rockies for a getaway and was quite boring to be honest with you. But these specials were great; the talent behind them took time to write these elaborate shows which unfortunately faded along with the Variety era.
My favorites were the Bob Hope specials. Some people know Bob Hope from his silly movies and others from his amazing work with the USO. I know him from his specials (and that one time I saw him live). I loved these, and during the 80's he would do four a five a year. They had music numbers and sketches and Bob would banter with his guests. Bob Hope was the perfect entertainer; he could entertain someone even if they were in a coma. I used to love how he would allow his guests to get the punch lines, even at his own expense. That is real class. The best part of these shows was his monologues. 8-10 minutes making fun of everything from politics to celebrities. It’s hard to say who is better, Johnny Carson or Bob Hope. While Carson was the far better interviewer, Hope’s monologues and sketches were stronger than Carson’s. Well, they’re both legends. Thank goodness my father recorded many of these specials so I can still watch them. Bob Hope was a true legend, and I feel fortunate I got to see some of his brilliant work firsthand. For some reason these kind of shows just aren't made anymore. In fact one of the reason I liked the Betty White 80th Birthday Special a few months ago was because stuff like that just isn't seen anymore these days, which is a shame.
Ah, old school Nickelodeon. When it was a really great network. I was so lame I actually mailed away for a printed schedule. Don't worry, I don't understand why either. Let's see, Mr.Wizards' World, Double Dare….yeah, we all remember those. Who remembers the more obscure stuff like Danger Mouse (a cartoon about a British mouse who solved crimes…yes, really), Today's Special (look it up, I loved this show!), Pinwheel (this scared me, it used to be one for six hours straight, years later I realized it was just re-runs they showed all afternoon), Out of Control (a quirky show which gave Dave Coulier his start. It was a mock news program/sketch show and was really funny. In between the news segments a story line would run through the show, one which I never forgot had the cast age for no reason. hmmm, wonder if Linkara ever saw that show), and a show called Standby..Lights, Camera, Action which had Leonard Nimoy going behind the scenes of hit movies at the time. Ah, good times.
My favorite is the one I left out. Of course we had You Can't Do That on Television! If there one review nostalgia critic did that I 100% disagreed with, it’s what he said about that show. It was a fantastic show, but I think you had to be there. Yes, the jokes were corny but even they knew that. That was part of the fun. The kids had fun chemistry, most of the time, and it was great watching them interact. The pace of the show was so quick that even if there was a lame sketch, don’t worry another one will be coming in about five seconds. Basically Laugh-In for kids, the show even did their version of the wall on that show only instead of a wall they used lockers. They had water and green slime fall if you said the right words, and we lived for those moments. I always loved how Nickelodeon kept the green slime concept after they faded the show out. I think that show may have done more to shape Nickelodeon than any other (well, not counting that guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea). I won’t go into any more detail because my faithful colleague pbmiranda is planning a much more detailed article on these great shows which I look forward to reading. I will say that aside from He-Man no other show reminds me of my childhood like You Can’t. I loved it. Now to be fair, unlike MTV I think Nick is still a decent network and has some good stuff. But man, those classic days were great and still bring a nostalgic tear to my eye.
Ok, there is one other thing I had to mention. PSA's! The 70's Saturday Mornings had Schoolhouse Rock (I'm a bill, an ordinary bill....), the 80's had One to Grow One. I LOVED THESE! Basically the concept was we would see a situation involving kids, for example complaining about having homework, and suddenly the scene would zoom out to a celebrity explaining whatever the moral was. Not only were these fun and educational, they were who's a who of who was on NBC at that time! Name a star on NBC in the 80's, from Michael J.Fox to Soleil Moon Frye, and they did in one of these. Even Mr.T! This ties into that "family" thing I brought up earlier. These were so much fun and if you never heard them, YouTube has plenty to check out. It would not have been Saturday morning without them. Schoolhouse Rock was fun, we had psa's at the end of all our cartoons at the time (And knowing is half the battle!) and the "time for timer" ads which never leave my head were cute, but One to Grow On was my favorite. Hey, they released a dvd for Schoolhouse Rock, maybe someday....nah, thank goodness for YouTube.