Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Beast Within (Or: Toys R Us Needs To Get Its Act Together)


It is a known fact among adult LEGO fans that Toys R Us marks up most of their LEGO sets by a couple of bucks. To atone for this, the company says they'll match the price of any ad. But why should I have to bring in an ad? All I want to do is give you money and get some bricks; stop trying to rob me!

Which is probably why I almost never go there.

But about a week ago, I saw a promo for a building event to be held at Toys R Us stores on September 17th and 24th. On these two weekends, customers could build and take home LEGO replicas of Cogsworth and Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.


Naturally, as fan of both BATB and all things LEGO, I was excited. But was it only for kids? I made sure to read the fine print:

Event intended for ages 6-up. Parental supervision required at all times for minors. All giveaways and event materials available while supplies last and distributed to participants only. Limit one per customer. Quantities limited; no rain checks. While supplies last. 

Six and up! One per customer! 


So on September 17th, I went. That day, you got to build Cogsworth. The event was from 12 to 2pm. I got to the store at 12:30 and waited in line for over half an hour. The line seemed to be moving slowly because they had to have each and every person pick their individual LEGO pieces out of these little bins.


They gave you a bag for your pieces, and you also got instructions and a Cogsworth face sticker:


I quickly got my pieces, sat down at a table and began to build...


After all that waiting, it only took about 5 minutes to build the little guy....


Having made Cogsworth, I purchased an additional LEGO set and left. At home, I put a sticky note on my cupboard with a reminder so I wouldn't forget to return the following week to make Lumiere.

Today was Lumiere Day.

Hoping to avoid such a long wait this time around, I got to the store early, around 11:45. Right before noon, an employee (who I didn't see around last week) began handing out instructions to all the kids in line. He bypassed me. I didn't notice this at first because I was distracted.

In front of me in line, there was a family with a toddler. One of the adults asked the other what they were even building. The reply: "Some princess set? A candlestick? From... what's the name of that movie? Oh yeah, Beauty and the Beast." "What was the candlestick's name? I can't remember." "Me neither."

Reaching the front of the line, I asked if I could also have some instructions. A lady employee handed a sheet to me. Then the male employee said to me, "This event is for kids only."

I tried to explain to the man that I had been allowed to make Cogsworth the previous week.

"They were probably just being nice last week," he said. "But we can't allow adults to have one, because that would mean a kid might not get one and they'd be disappointed."

I pointed out that the fine print did not say there was an age limit.

He replied with something to the effect of, "The is a kids' event. But I'm not going to say no to you. Just that if you do it, a child will be disappointed." He said this in the exact tone I often tell kids in the school cafeteria that they ought to not eat the giant bag of Hot Cheetos they brought from home, but I'm not going to physically stop them if they're so determined.

Far be it from me to deny a LEGO set to a toddler whose parents don't even know the name of the darn candlestick and who, by LEGO's own standards, is too young to even have the bricks, due to potential choking hazards. (See that fine print.) 

By that point, I was feeling quite bad. I might disappoint a child, but screw my own disappointment. As an adult, I don't get to have feelings. I carved out part of my Saturday for this, drove ten miles to get there, and then I get... this.

Annoyed with the stupidity of it all, I left (with the instructions still in hand, thank you.) I briefly considered driving all the way to northish Portland to go to the other Toys R Us, but I didn't think my poor nerves could handle being rejected twice in one day. Anyway, I figured I probably had all the pieces I needed at home. And I did, mostly.


Well, I had everything except the face sticker. So I photocopied Lumiere's face from the instructions and used glue. It's a bit of an abomination, but hey.

In the end, my thoughts are these: Toys R Us? You need to get your *#@& together. You ought to make your online ads & fine print & rules consistent with what you tell your employees. If something is for kids only? TELL ME BEFOREHAND. I won't show up, and that's fine. I'll do something better with my Saturday. If something is for everyone? Tell your employees not to discriminate.

I'm done with your store, honestly. Amazon.com FTW.

Anyway, for those of you who missed the events or were turned away, here are the instructions:





Happy building!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen


Fifteen years ago, America was brutally shaken. Living on the west coast, having never visited New York or Washington and not knowing anyone who lived in those places (save for a few internet acquaintances), I didn't feel the events as harshly as some did. I wasn't even aware of the attacks until hours after they happened, when my brother showed me the news on AOL. He said that planes had knocked down the World Trace Center towers, crashed into a field, and hit the Pentagon. I couldn't even get my mind around the information. 

I immediately went upstairs and turned on the TV. I then spent hours watching the horrifying images of the second plane hitting, the towers falling, people screaming, newscasters speculating.

I remember how little anyone knew, then. Was it terrorists? It had to be. It couldn't be an accident if it involved so many planes. Were there any survivors? People thought there might be a lot of people buried alive under the WTC rubble. There were long lines at the Red Cross, people giving blood for the living-but-injured WTC victims, who (we now know) numbered few. 

Chaos. People in New York couldn't find their loved ones. There were The Missing Posters/fliers. Have you seen my sister? Have you seen my son? He worked in the North Tower. Please call 555-XXXX! There was hope that these missing people were in a hospital somewhere, merely dazed. It's so sad to think that this was probably not the case.

Between tears, we felt anger. This was, we were sure, a deliberate attack against America. What could we do? If we didn't do something, the "terrorists would win!" Some people decided wearing red, white, and blue clothes and/or American Flag shirts was the thing to do. It was silly, but we wanted to do something. We wanted to show our pride in our country, a country that was hurting so much. We wanted to be "united."

 Things changed. Security tightened even more at airports. After the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 (which people had thought was a terrorist attack for some time) it seemed like security in airports had gotten more strict. But up until 9/11, nearly anyone could go through the security checkpoints. You could go right to the gates to see someone off, or welcome someone who was arriving. After 9/11, and ever since -- nope. Not without a ticket, you don't. And now they lock the cockpits on planes. 

We were all super sensitive in that first year or two or three. Sensitive to anything to do with New York City, terrorists, bombs, airplanes, or even tall buildings. I remember a debate as to whether they should change the name of the upcoming second Lord Of The Rings Movie, The Two Towers (adapted from a book published in 1954), to something that didn't remind people of 9/11.

If you turned on the TV in the days and weeks that followed the tragedy, you'd usually be seeing some version of the news, something about 9/11. September is normally when new TV shows premiere, but a lot of those shows got pushed back a month or more. Shows that had "terrorist" or even "airplane" elements to them were edited to remove anything that might potentially upset people. I remember NBC aired Back To The Future in the weeks after 9/11, and the terrorists-in-the-parking-lot scene was so edited down, you would have thought Marty McFly went back in time just for the heck of it. 

For a long time after the attacks, we looked for heroes. We began to elevate the first responders (firefighters, police officers, etc.) who either ran into the WTC without blinking or lost their colleagues on that day. Actually, anyone on the planet who was a police officer or firefighter could have our hero worship after 9/11. 

  Even Rudy Giuliani, then-mayor of NYC, got to be a hero for a while. He helped out and boosted morale until such a time as everyone remembered he was actually pretty terrible.

Americans were still pretty raw a year later, when the 1-year-memorials aired. I remember watching one broadcast where they listed the names of everyone who had died in the attacks that day.

I remember ABC did an episode of one of their news programs that featured all the babies who had been born in the months after 9/11, whose fathers had died in the attacks. Their moms were pregnant with them on 9/11/01. Some were far along; others weren't even aware they were pregnant on that day. I have the episode on tape somewhere, and it always makes me cry. Most of those kids have now just started high school. (Here's a video from when they were all 9 or 10.)

Fifteen years. What a day. What a decade and a half.

Monday, September 5, 2016

State Of A-Fairs


The Oregon State Fair bridges the gap between those lazy, sweltering August days and the crisp, chilly September ones. Over the past decade, it has become one of the yearly events I most look forward to. (Others being pumpkin patch visits in October and holiday bazaar excursions in November-December. Yes, I lead a thrilling life.) 

Most years, I go to the Fair with a friend. Sometimes I'll go twice during the season. I've been trying to remember who I've gone with in recent years. Looking back at photos, it looks like it was: 

2015 - Esther (friend)
2014 - Miriam (cousinette)
2013 - Esther / Mom
2012 - Esther
2011 - Lexi (my "little sister") / Myself?
2010 - Lexi
2009 - GG (friend) & Family 
2008 - GG & Family
2007 - Didn't go?
2006 - Mom, Amy & + Storey Family (relatives)

This year, I went completely solo.


 Wednesday, August 31: My main reason for going that day was to see the Jeremy Camp / MercyMe concert in the evening.

Fairgoing isn't always cheap, but I managed to spend a grand total of $21. 


Amazing, right? $5 for parking, $8 admission, $3.50 for root beer, $3.50 for a pretzel, and $1.00 in petting zoo-animal food.


Man, I love those animals.


I spent about an hour in the art gallery. No photos allowed in there. I understand, but it's annoying. There was a whole section with calligraphy projects from David Douglas students. I recognized two of my former students' names & work. I had them back in Kindergarten & second grade. One, I believe, just graduated. (Excuse me while I go feel old.)

In the Creative Living building, there was a pretty good showing of LEGO creations, mostly by kids. 

This was my favorite setup...


Out on the fairgrounds, I wanted some good fair food, but I kept running into the same three options:

1. Meat
2. Fried
3. Oddly Expensive

Which is why I finally just bought a pretzel. 


I checked out the rides, but didn't go on any...


I'm not sure what I think about temporary (read: collapsible) roller coasters.


Yeah, sure it is.

At 6:00, I walked toward the concert area. One of the radio stations had a prize wheel just outside the venue. I spun it and won myself a singular piece of candy! Then I went to find a seat. Fairgoers can sit in general seating for free. If you want to sit up close, you have to buy a special ticket.

I did not buy a special ticket, but I got to sit in the 9th row anyway, thanks to a nice lady who had an extra ticket! She just walked up to me and asked if I wanted it. Sweet!


And the concert--


was amazing!!


At its conclusion (sadface) I walked around the fair a bit more...



And finally, after a great afternoon and evening, with my heart full and happy, I headed for home.


Say, who wants to go to the Fair with me next year?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Silent Or Boisterous


I often dream in metaphor. If I have the same type of dream over and over, and give mind (when awake) to what's going on in my life when I have those dreams, I can usually start to figure out what the dreams are really about.

If I dream that I'm finding a bunch of open and unlocked doors in my house, or finding that things are missing or stolen, it's probably because I'm feeling vulnerable or anxious about something.

If I dream that I've gone outside to find that my pet chickens have multiplied into a huge flock that includes not only hens but a couple of guinea pigs who I've forgotten to feed for a week, it's probably because my subconscious is worried about real-life responsibilities or its concerned that I've been neglecting something important.

If I dream that I'm in a big building with lots of corridors and secret passageways and stairways, it might be because I'm actually in a highly creative mode and working out the nuances of a story arc in something I'm writing. Complicated story arcs somehow translate into dreams about secret passageways, go figure.

If I dream that I'm suddenly in high school or college again, and trying to figure out which class to get to next, or trying to find that class, or worrying that I'm failing a class, it might be because, well... um... OKAY, WHY DO I HAVE THOSE?

There are actually numerous possible reasons, but the fact is, I've had three of those dreams in the last week, and I'm kind of annoyed about it. Two were definitely set in college, where I was moving into and out of dorm rooms and having delicious meals at the food court. Last night, I was taking a math class that involved manipulating large amounts of clay. Yes, clay. But when we students weren't handling the clay, we were being asked to solve calculus problems. I had no idea how to do anything the teacher was asking, and was deciding I definitely needed to drop that class before I earned a big fat F. Also, I was feeling a little silly being there in the first place, having already gone through the whole college thing some years before.


Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to college, though. I like learning. But I do not like homework, reading assignments, or writing papers. I don't even know why I don't like writing papers. Maybe it's because I don't like the idea of learning something and then having to repeat everything I've just learned back to the teacher. It feels so tedious. Just teach me and let me enjoy the knowledge.

I've actually taken about a dozen adult education courses since graduating from college. They've been great. But somehow... they don't really give me the "college" feel that my dreams seem to be asking for. But what kind of classes do I want to take? What would satisfying my apparent cravings for tastes of higher education?

Let's face it; the class I really want to take would be called something like: "Art Appreciation & Traveling & Food-Eating & Horseback Riding By Moonlight." 

I wouldn't even mind the homework.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gone Games

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games have come to a close, but before I go back to watching 80s TV shows on Netflix, I'd like to mention a few things about The Games....

First off, even though I watched lots of swimming and track races again this year, I did catch some new events! Such as...

Trampoline. People bouncing really high! And doing flips! I had never seen this competition before; in fact, I was sure it must be a brand-new event. But I guess it's actually been around since 2000. Even so, super fun to watch. Boingggg!

Canoe Slalom: You know what I find boring? Olympic rowing races. Maybe because the camera usually just shows a closeup on four people moving their arms in a repetitive motion for what seems like an hour. Meh. But this year I watched the Canoe Slalom events, and what a difference rapids and obstacles make! Totally fun! 

Equestrian Jumping: Okay, I know equestrian competitions have been around forever, but ANIMALS GET TO BE IN THE OLYMPICS, YOU GUYS! I love that.


The winner of the Equestrian "Jump-Off" I watched the other day was show rider Nick Skelton from the U.K., along with his horse, Big Star. I'm not sure how old Big Star is, but Mr. Skelton is 58, which in Olympic Years means he's pretty much Methuselah

Which brings me to something that's been bothering me the past two weeks: The Olympic commentators have an annoying way of making me feel old They love to talk about the athletes' ages. "This guy's only 18! Wow, what a prodigy!" "This guy's 28, oh... he's getting up there..." "Michael Phelps is 31; gettin' ready to retire!" 

Apparently, anyone over the age of about 32, myself included, is officially geriatric. 

And I get it; I mean, there's a scientific link between age and health and physical fitness/stamina. People in their late teens and twenties are often in their physical prime. They make up the largest number of Olympic competitors. They win a lot of medals. Older people, people over 30, well, we have brittle bones and are prone to gout and should really just go sit in a museum and wait for the end to come.

UGH.

But perhaps because I'm now considered "Olympically Old," I found particular pleasure, this year, in the stories involving athletes who were, well, older. Like Mr. Skelton, the equestrian. Or Kristin Armstrong, 43, who won Gold in the women's cycling time trial.

One lady I really wanted to raise a glass to was Oksana Chusovitina, 41, a gymnast who has actually been competing in the Olympic games since 1992. At her SEVENTH Olympic Games, she flew over the vault like a... well, name your airborne object. In a sport where nearly everyone peaks at about 18 and retires by 25 to become a commentator, coach, or commercial star, Ms. Chusovitina is like, "Where's the vault? Oh, that tiny lil thing? Run, run, run, WHEEEEE! Ha ha! Suck it, teenagers!" (Not her actual words, but, you know.)

Anyway, that's it for 2016. In four years (2020, for the mathematically challenged) the Summer Games will take place in Tokyo. I intend to be watching. I just hope my retirement home has cable TV.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We All Fall Down


I really enjoy the summer Olympics. In general I have very little interest in sports, but when The Summer Games are on, I'm there, in front of my TV.

On Friday I watched the Opening Ceremonies.

In a nutshell:

*Uhhh did I accidentally tune in to Disney's Fantasia?
*Holy crap are there a lot of countries in this world!!
*Tonga flag bearer = shiny.
*Refugee team makes us go "awww."


On Saturday I watched the men's bike race, which took place over the hills of Rio. Lots of curves. Very dangerous downhill rides. Several guys went off the road. Painful.


Sunday, it was the women's bike race. Toward the end, the lead racer flipped over her handlebars and landed so hard, I thought for sure she was dead. (She wasn't.) 

Later, during the swimming trials, we got a glimpse of Chad Le Clos, the South African Swimmer who beat Michael Phelps in one race four years ago, and apparently... things are not good between them. Because Monday night before one of the semifinals, this happened:


Yikes!

Apparently the non-love is a result of Michael, a while back, saying that some international races Chad participated in had "slow" overall times, and Chad shooting back that at least his times were faster than anything Michael had done lately.

They'll have it out in the pool later tonight.

Theirs isn't the only rivalry of epic proportions. American swimmer Lilly King is not a fan of drug cheats, mainly one so-called cheater in particular, and she will let you know!

I certainly haven't watched every minute of the games. Some events just don't interest me. Also, annoyingly, NBC's evening coverage on the west coast is NOT live, which means I have to try to avoid spoilers before the races. It's so much less exciting if you know ahead of time who's going to win. 

NBC.com, on the other hand, streams events live. While trying to download the latest version of FlashPlayer so I could watch Olympics stuff on my computer, I managed to inadvertently co-download software called True Key, supposedly by Intel. Its gimmick of allowing you to "log onto your computer with your FACE" sounds, well, sort of menacing.


Maybe Michael Phelps was trying to log in to Chad Le Clos' mind with HIS face?

I'm currently trying to uninstall it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Wizarding World Of Spoiler Alerts

I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child today.

And basically,


+


+


=




What's not to love, really?


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I Think It's Safe Now...

I canceled my web hosting account last night and took down the website I'd had up since 2003. First I downloaded everything to my computer. Then I deleted it all from the server. As I watched it all go, like water down a drain, I felt like I was watching my life of the past 13 years flash before my eyes. So much content. Years' worth of work. They say the internet's forever, but I haven't found that to be true. Who knows? Maybe some of my work will resurface someday in a completely unexpected way. But for now, I've "salvaged" my favorite things from that site and posted them here on this blog. And the rest is... history. 


When I created AlligatorJuice.com in 2003, I did it for several reasons. Mainly, I loved to write. I had things to say and I wanted the "world" to hear/read those things. Prior to 2003, I'd edited an email-based newsletter based on my favorite TV show. I had a couple hundred subscribers. But by 2003, there wasn't much more I felt I could say about a TV show that had ended 6 years prior.

But there was plenty I could say about the things that were important to me at the time. And in 2003, one thing that was important to a lot of Gen-Yers (and still is!) was nostalgia. We may have been barely out of high school back then, but our childhood toys, books, video games, movies, etc. were weighing on our minds as things of supreme importance. Care Bears! Barbies! Back To The Future! Must not forget!

There were other websites like mine out there, sites that inspired me. One was called X-Entertainment.com. X-E was the site I wanted mine to be. Side-splittingly funny & full of nostalgic content for the masses. Other such websites included Poprocks & Coke, Progressive Boink, and Pop Arena, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was (well, still is!) Scary-Crayon, whose webmaster, Wes, became a RL friend of mine. There were also many, many more sites, but their names are lost to me, now.

AlligatorJuice never got really popular or made me internet-famous, but I don't regret all those years of writing content for it. Even though quite a bit of said content was crap, even then, and other things, well -- they seemed good when I wrote them but now they make me cringe -- those articles helped make me better. To become a better writer, you have to write. A lot. AJ prompted me to do just that. At last count, I had 85 articles/sections on the site. One of those sections was the "TV Movie-Of-The-Week" one, in which I profiled 62 small-screen flicks.


Yet, when trying to decide what to save and import over to this blog, I only chose about 20 things altogether. And that was kind of difficult for me. Some articles were just too image-heavy to bother with. Others just didn't hold up anymore. And still others, well, who knows... maybe someday.

I've posted what I want to post, for now.

Thank you for your patience over the last week as I moved things over. :)
From here on out: NEW CONTENT! 

(But when? Haha, well...)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Favorite Childhood TV Shows: #13-16 (Step By Step, Garfield, Flintstones, DuckTales)

STEP BY STEP
Years It Aired: 1991-1998
Years I Was Into It: 1992-1997 





GARFIELD & FRIENDS
Years It Aired: 1988-1995
Years I Was Into It: 1988-1991


In the 80s, CBS used to air Garfield specials. There was a Christmas one, a Halloween one, one where Garfield goes to Hollywood, another one where he and Odie and Jon go camping and nearly get eaten by a panther, and a particularly wacky/creepy one titled Garfield: His Nine Lives. (Let's just say some of those lives? Not so kid-friendly! But my brother and I did dearly love it.)

Then came the TV series. And it was great because it was Garfield, and yet it wasn't great because half of the segments were about these other animals on a farm who... I mean... I guess knew Garfield? Somehow? Like, it was established in the specials that Jon's parents lived on a farm, so maybe that's where they lived? I have no idea. But there was a pig and a duck who wore an innertube around his waist and I can't remember who else and... well, I hated them. I really did. The "Friends" segments were something I always had to sit through and tolerate in order to get back to the Garfield parts. The parts that mattered.

Sigh. I miss the heyday of Garfield, back in the day of the show, the specials, and comics that were actually funny. The Garfield comics now have sunk to Ziggy/Marmaduke/Family Circus-level horendousness. They aren't even not funny, they're just... nothing. They're just, like:

Garfield: *sits*
Jon: "Garfield, you are sitting."
Garfield: "Sitting is fun!"
End.

How do you live with yourself, Jim Davis, how?




THE FLINTSTONES
Years It Aired: 1961-1966
Years I Was Into It: 1984-1987


There are some shows I remember watching at a very young age. This was one of them. I don't think I understood half of what was going on, but what the heck... it was a cartoon, it was colorful, and wacky things tended to happen. I don't remember exactly what time it aired -- maybe in the afternoons on Channel 12? In the 80s, Channel 12 was Portland's go-to station for all things syndicated, family-friendly, and/or delightfully corny.

Some of the things I loved best about the show:

*The theme song... and the end theme song. Remember how Fred tries to put the cat out of the house at night but the cat jumps through the window and puts Fred out instead? I never got tired of seeing that.

*All the goofy gadgets they had, like a dinosaur crane and the telephone receiver that was shaped like an animal horn (though how they never managed to impale themselves on it I will never know.)

*Fred. I loved Fred. He was so mean to Barney though. Maybe it's because Barney had those creepy eyes that were sometimes all black and sometimes Little Orphan Annie-esque. They were eerie. Still, that's not really a valid reason to be mean to someone. Or is it?

*Bam-Bam and Pebbles - the two cutest cartoon babies on TV!

*Betty. She was just so glamorous!

Then came the Flintstones Kids, the TV-movies, the feature film (Rosie O'Donnell as Betty!? NOOOO!). It's been a zoo. I just like the original. Annnd maybe Cocoa Pebbles because those things are good. 




DUCKTALES
Years It Aired: 1987-1990
Years I Was Into It: 1987-present


OMG DuckTales.

When the pilot movie ("Treasure Of The Golden Suns") aired one evening in 1987, I was there to watch it. And I freaking LOVED it. That movie had adventure, mystique, treasure, humor, action, and most of all, heart. I was in love.

Then DuckTales came to weekday afternoon TV as a series, and every day after school, I made sure I was plunked in front of the TV to see what adventures the Ducks were going to embark on THIS time.

Then it became part of the the Disney Afternoon, airing at 3:30 in our town, between Gummi Bears and Rescue Rangers. But DuckTales was THE BEST.

And the crazy thing is, I STILL LIKE IT! Okay, so I've gone through the three commercially-available DVD sets, and not every episode is pure gold. A few are quite lame. And occasionally they would recycle their plots/conflicts. But the good episodes make up for it. And I will go on record as saying I think Fenton/Gizmoduck is one of the best Superheroes ever.

This summer, Capcom released an updated version of the classic DT NES game called DuckTales Remastered, and they even got most of the original voice actors from the series to play their roles in the game. The game tries to feel like an episode of the series, and in some ways, it almost works. No matter how odd the story may be, it's still fun to pogo around the globe as Uncle Scrooge, collecting treasure and taking the occasional dip in the ol' money bin!


A great show! I miss you, DuckTales...


The above TV show profiles were written between 2011 and 2013 and published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com.


Favorite Childhood TV Shows: #9-12 (MASH, Sesame Street, Muppet Babies, Carmen Sandiego)


M*A*S*H
Years It Aired: 1972-1983
Years I Was Into It: The 80's 

M*A*S*H: My parents watched it. I watched it because they watched it. The premise of the show was completely lost on me. I just knew it was about a bunch of guys (and a lone lady) who lived in big tents and often clustered around something, holding metal objects and discussing whatever they were looking at. Oh yeah, and helicopters.

So if I didn't understand that it was supposed to be set during a war, nor did I really understand that they were doctors (or maybe I did... I did watch The Muppet Show, and there was that hospital segment on there), and if 99% of the jokes flew over my head, why did I watch it?

Fact: I loved the characters. Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicut reminded me of my dad and his friends: serious when they needed to be, but with a fun-loving side. Klinger totally reminded me of my friend's dad -- at least as far as looks and goofiness, maybe not the crossdressing thing -- and I loved him. Radar reminded me of various uncles and cousins -- kind of a geek, but someone who would always be nice to you. "Hot Lips" Houlihan stood out because she was the resident female, not unlike Smurfette or Miss Piggy, and being a girl myself, I couldn't not care about her.

I've seen the show since my childhood, and yes, now I "get it". Now I am truly impressed by the intelligence and humor of this show that, let's face it, has a pretty somber premise. Seeing the characters today is like seeing old friends -- TV friends, anyway. I bet others felt the same way. There's got to be a reason the show lasted for more years than the war itself! I don't think anyone wanted to give these guys up. But it had to happen. C'est la TV life. Thank goodness for syndication and DVDs. And helicopters.





SESAME STREET
Years It Aired: 1969+
Years I Was Into It: 1983-1992


I don't exactly remember when I began watching Sesame Street. I'm sure I was pretty little. I remember my parents taking me to see Sesame Street Live when I was about three, and I grew bored halfway through and we had to leave. But before we did, my parents bought me a felt poster of Oscar The Grouch, which was displayed on my wall and proceeded to terrify me. It was then passed on to my younger brother, who had no apparent fears of green monsters in garbage cans. My brother, the brave one.

I had some of the Sesame Street Fisher Price Little People. I had Big Bird and Bert and Ernie. Strange that Ernie got all the bite marks, since I liked him better than Bert. I also had one of the Count. He grossed me out. I thought his monocle was a bubble. Nobody should have a bubble over their eye; that's gotta be a sign of leprosy or something.
The episodes would often just end with the CTW logo, but sometimes they'd have this sequence with Barkley -- and I loved it when they did. It was akin to opening up a Wonka Bar and finding the golden ticket. For years I was mystified as to how they got so many kids to hide behind that tree! My three favorite things about the show were:

#1--The theme song. I loved the kids climbing over rocks or running across fields to get to Sesame Street. It was like, hey, ANYONE can come to Sesame Steet, you just have to get off your behind!

#2--The number pinball segments!

#3-- The end credits with Barkley.
What else? Oh yes, I loved the two monsters who were stuck together. (Or was it a two-headed monster?) I was a big fan of the humans on the show. Cookie Monster was great, if not a little crazy. Snuffleupagus was slightly disconcerting to me. And Elmo? Oh, Elmo, Elmo, Elmo...

Here's what wikipedia has to say about the red monster:

Criticism and controversy

* Some longtime fans of the series, particularly those who had begun watching it prior to Elmo's introduction, resent his now-prominent status, which has caused some older characters (such as Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, The Count, Prairie Dawn, Grover, and Cookie Monster) to see reduced roles.

THANK YOU. I am one of those who resented the Rise of Elmo. It seemed like he came out of nowhere, and shoved most of the other Sesame Street characters into the land that time forgot. Today I lump him in the same mental group as Dora the Explorer and Hannah Montana. I think they'd all get along, I do.

* Some people believe that Elmo's characteristic of referring to himself and others in the third person will teach children improper English usage. In its FAQ, the Sesame Workshop responds to this accusation, stating that this behavior "mimics the behavior of many preschoolers."

More like it mimics the behavior of many mommies. I can't tell you how many mothers of preschoolers I know who talk like this: "Jaydynn, Mommy doesn't like it when Jaydynn hits. Please don't hit Mommy. Does Jaydynn want a lollipop?" I may not like Elmo, but let's find something else for which to blame him. Such as famine. And Paris Hilton.

I hear that Sesame Street nowadays is quite different from how it was when I was a kid. I can't bear to try watching the new episodes. Just give me DVDs of episodes from the 70s and 80s and I'll be a happy camper!





MUPPET BABIES
Years It Aired: 1984-1991
Years I Was Into It: 1986-1988


During the 80's, a bunch of network execs apparently got together and decided they needed to take popular TV shows and make them more kid-friendly. And so the world was given Alf: The Animated Series and It's Punky Brewster!, among others. But they didn't stop there. Oh hey, they thought, why not take popular, established, well-loved characters and make shows about when they were young!? And lo and behold, we got The Flintstone KidsA Pup Named Scooby Doo, and -- one of my favorites as a kid --Muppet Babies.

The goofy thing about these last three shows was that they used exactly the same characters as in the original series, the characters were just, now, tiny. Fred Flintstone still hung out with Barney Rubble and knew Betty and Wilma. Scooby Doo still knew Shaggy and Velma and the rest, and they were exactly the same, just miniature-sized. What was the point? I don't know. I guess it opened up a whole new world of adventures for them. But really, who hangs around the same people as adults that they did when they were 5? I mean the exact same group of people? Really?

So about The Muppet Babies: We are supposed to believe that all the Muppets of a certain age were all in daycare together when they were toddlers. Pig, Frog, Bear, Whatevergonzois... they all wore diapers and hung out in a nursery, watched over sporadically by a striped-sockinged faceless being known only as "Nanny." Though the Muppet Babies were stuck in this virtual playland prison, they were never truly dismayed, for they had the power of their imaginations to keep them soaring! And so every episode we were treated to whimsical vignettes straight out of their toddlery Muppety brains.

Meanwhile, even as a kid I was minorly annoyed they had to turn the Muppets into babies. What was wrong with them as adults? And where, dogarnit, was the Swedish Chef? I want to see spoons being thrown around!

But because they were, after all, the Muppets, I watched them weekly. And got the McDonalds toys. And a stuffed Miss Piggy. And... okay, okay, the show was fine. So what if my memories of it, now, make it seem a bit off-putting and creepy?


Gee... I wonder why? 




WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO?
Years It Aired: 1991-1996
Years I Was Into It: 1991-1993


Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? was a geography game show for kids. It was a part of PBS's afternoon line-up of fun, educational shows for the 5-12 crowd during the early 90's.

Now, I loved game shows as a kid, but I loved kids' game shows even moreso because, well duh, there were kids on there. Carmen Sandiego was hosted by a mildly attractive blonde guy and included an actress (Lynne Thigpen) who would later go on to appear on primetime TV shows, and I'd be all "OMG! It's the lady from Carmen Sandiego!" much the same way I might see a red-haired guy and go, "OMG! J.D. Roth, is that you?!" (Sad fact: it seldom is.) Sandiego also featured an a cappella group called Rockapella; they sang the theme song.

So each episode had three contestants and they had to answer geography trivia questions in the first round. The lowest scorer would be sent home with a T-shirt and a Walkman or something, and the remaining two would go on to play a kind of memory game. The victor would then proceed to do a challenge in which he/she had to correctly identify a certain amount of countries on a specific continent in a short amount of time.

This is where it got good. If the kid won, they'd get a trip to anywhere in the continental U.S.A. If they lost, then Carmen Sandiego would ESCAPE, and it would bring instant shame upon their families. So when the kid was placed in front of the giant floormap of, say, North America, they might be happy, because most of the states in the U.S. aren't terribly hard to identify (hint: Florida is shaped like a... oh, nevermind). But if you got Africa? You were pretty much screwed. (Unless you're this kid.)

Eventually, the show got kind of tiresome because, as long as I watched it, they never changed the format. In fact, the most exciting thing about the show was finding out what state the winner had chosen to visit and what dinky-do prizes the runners-up got, and even THAT got old after 50 episodes. Still, I look back on the Carmen Sandiego fondly, because for several years it was a must-see for my brother and me on weekday afternoons. 




The above TV show profiles were written in 2009 and 2010 and published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com.