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.

Favorite Childhood TV Shows: #5-8 (Muppet Show, Perry Mason, AFHV, Super Friends)

THE MUPPET SHOW
Years It Aired: 1976-1981
Years I Was Into It: 1982-1984



My little brother was born when I was two. He took afternoon naps like a good little baby, but I wouldn't have any of that. And because our house was small and my mom wanted to keep me quiet, every afternoon I'd get plunked in front of the TV to watch the daily lineup of Smurfs, Super Friends and The Muppet Show. I don't know what order those three shows aired in, or if I'm falsely remembering they all aired in a block at all, but I do distinctly remember being three years old and loving each of them. I even remember one afternoon when -- thanks to a tipping stool, a mouthsmack on the counter, and a rush to the dentist -- I missed the shows. I cried. But then the tooth fairy came and all was well.

I loved the Muppet Show theme song. I remember asking my dad: "Why do they sing 'On the Muppet Show tonight' when it is daytime?" and he explained that the show used to air at night. I was intrigued by this bit of trivia. So I'd missed the original series run. The same can be said for several shows of my childhood. But I didn't mind. It's better to be late to the TV party than not show up at all.

The Muppet Show was really meant for adults; I know that now. I've rented the DVDs from Netflix and I'm quite sure 90% of the jokes must've flown over my head back then. But there was still plenty to keep me entertained. There were puppets, for one thing. Colorful furballs of all shapes and sizes who made wild gestures, sang, and danced. The Swedish Chef was always throwing kitchen utensils, and if 3-year-olds aren't the key demographic for that kind of comedy, I don't know who is. So what if I didn't know who any of the guest stars were? Heck, I still don't know who half of them are! Valerie Harper? Oh yeah, I have a TV-movie with her! Peter Ustinovwhowhatnow? Oh... he did one of the lion voices in Robin Hood, gotcha!

Many of the guest stars may be long forgotten, and a few of the jokes may be corny and stale thirty years after the fact, but it's still an entertaining show. I love the musical numbers. I love the running gags. I love the Muppets' personalities -- from the headstrong, passionate Miss Piggy... to the gawky Skeeter... to the cool, talented Rowlf... to the cranky, sassy Waldorf & Statler... to the humble, lovable Kermit the Frog. Watching an episode of the Muppet Show brings me to a warm, fuzzy place.

Just like I've been swallowed by a big ol' Muppet.

...

Hey, who turned out the lights? 

PERRY MASON
Years It Aired: 1957-1966
Years I Was Into It: Early-to-mid 90's



Perry Mason-watching was a summer activity. It always aired at noon on weekdays, which meant during the school year -- no Perry. The same is true today; the same station that aired this hour-long formulaic whodunit show in the early 90's still airs it in 2008. And just like back then, summertime is the only time I can watch it. And I'm not exactly sure why I like to.

Maybe it's because of my mom. She watches it too. And she tells me about how she and her brother used to watch it on their lunch break in college. She's probably seen every episode. We'll start watching it, and she'll go, "I remember this one." "So who's the murderer?" I'll ask, because I like to know. Her response is always the same: "I don't remember." Great.

The show was simple: Perry Mason was a famous, intelligent defense attorney. Whenever someone was accused of murder or fraud, they'd go to Perry. This was a wise decision, because Perry Mason always won his cases. (Maybe there's an episode or two where he didn't, but I've yet to see one!) He would not only prove his client's innocence, but he'd draw out the real culprit through fancy interrogation (or just a simple "Didn't you. DIDN'T YOU?"-like demand). The bad guy would then crumble and admit everything. "Okay! Okay, I DID IT! And I did it because..." Pure gold.

Like on any good dramatic series, Perry had an opposing force. His name was Hamilton Burger, and he was a lawyer who often went against Perry in trials. You can probably figure out this guy's success rate -- it wasn't good. Yet he was relentless -- almost as if every time he found himself face-to-face with Perry Mason in the courtroom, he was muttering to himself, Okay, this is it. I can feel it. This time it's MY turn. I know I've lost every case to that man so far. 563 wins for him, zero for me. But this is the one, this is the case that will change all that! But, as far as I saw, it never was his turn. For him to win would mean Perry would have to lose, and that would be shifting the balance of the universe in unnatural ways.

For nearly a decade -- and then later, with a series of TV-movies -- the message remained the same: Good triumphs over evil, even in the courtroom. And nobody gets away with murder, not as long as Perry Mason's on the job.

I like that.



AMERICA'S FUNNIEST
HOME VIDEOS

Years It Aired: 1990-?
Years I Was Into It: 1990-1993


When I was growing up, Sunday night TV-watching was a family activity. In the 80's, we'd sit around the ol' tube, watching "The Magical World Of Disney," and be treated to G-rated Disney fare. In the mid-90's, Sunday nights were devoted to Lois & Clark. But from 1990 to 1993, Sunday night was reserved for one show: America's Funniest Home Videos.

I loved watching the videos. We didn't have a video camera at the time, but I longed for one. I loved the idea of being on TV. And winning money, too. But mostly just being on TV. So we'd turn on ABC at 8 o'clock on Sunday nights and proceed to watch for the next hour. During the commercial breaks, we'd grab snacks.

The hilarity of the videos themselves can be debated. People fell down. Heavy people broke fragile furniture. Stupid-in-the-first place stunts went awry. It was sophomoric humor to be sure, but hey, I was 10. It worked. There were some genuine videos, too -- videos you knew weren't staged or just out for cheap laughs. One that sticks out in my mind is the clip of a one-year-old kid toddling through a garden. All of a sudden a cat springs out of the bushes, pounces on the kid, and knocks him down. Come to think of it, I often enjoyed the funny cat videos.

Toward the end of the show each week, Bob Saget would announce the three finalists of the evening. Typically, these were not the funniest clips we'd seen that night (at least not to me), but for some reason, the producers thought they were award-worthy. The audience would then vote with little electronic votermabobs, and afterwards Bob would announce the 2nd place winner ($3000!) Drumroll, please? AND THE WINNER IS... (Insert name of Video here) SENT IN BY THE (insert last name here) FAMILY, FROM (family's city and state)!!! Bob Saget always sounded so excited when he announced the $10,000 winner. Meanwhile, the third place winners, who knew they were third place by default, hung their heads in shame. (Or at least they probably did. Unless they were totally just thrilled to be on TV... hmmm, can't blame them there!)

From the catchy theme song (Oh the funniest things you do / America, America, this is you!") to the perky host (gotta love TV's Danny Tanner) to the pure wackiness of the home movies -- this was once a very entertaining show.

And now I have nothing to watch on Sunday nights anymore. Nothing

SUPER FRIENDS
Years It Aired: Off & On From 1973-1986
Years I Was Into It: 1983-1985


Last week I rented a DVD of Super Friends and watched the show for the first time in nearly 24 years. Maybe I shouldn't have done that before writing this... maybe I should've written this based off my sketchy memories of being a preschooler who spent her weekdays parked in front of the TV, waiting for Super Friends to air. A kid who'd take her Cinderella paper dolls and pretend Prince Charming was Superman and Cinderella was Wonder Woman and fly them around the basement. A kid who cried the time she fell asleep and woke up too late to watch the show. A kid who, eight years later, would fall in love with another Superhero show, one which, at the risk of sounding cheesy, would change her life.

But I really wanted to see Super Friends before I wrote this. Just to see if it gave me that same feeling I got when I was four years old. The funny thing? It kind of did. It's action-packed, but kid-friendly. Sure, it can be corny (but that's not really unusual for a Superhero cartoon, is it?) and its plot holes could sink a freeway... but there's still something charming about it that makes me smile.

One particular Super Friends memory has remained in my brain all this years. It's from the episode where Superman got trapped behind the mirrors. He could go from one mirror to another, and I remember he went to Lois Lane's mirror (in her office!) and tried to get her attention, but although she heard his voice, she thought she was just going crazy and left the room. I remember Superman went to another mirror, and... yeah, but that's where my memory pretty much ended. But I do recall feeling frustrated with that Lois Lane woman. What was her problem, anyway? 

The above TV show profiles were written in 2008 and 2009 and published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com. The above-mentioned Super Friends episode, I discovered, was from season 4 and titled "Reflections In Crime." It was just like I remembered. 

Favorite Childhood TV Shows: #1-4 (Brady Bunch, Full House, Mr. Rogers, Fun House)

THE BRADY BUNCH
Years It Aired: 1969-1974
Years I Was Into It: Mid-to-late 80's
 

There's a perfectly good reason why I subjected myself to the TV-movie The Brady Bunch In The White House last year: I used to like The Brady Bunch... a lot. Sure, it's as corny as hell, the morality lessons are as subtle as an elephant in a train station, and the fashions will make you go blind. But I didn't care back then. As a kid, I spent many afternoons watching Brady reruns, enjoying the adventures of Cindy, Bobby, and the rest of the family.

I'm not sure I ever figured out (on my own, at least) that this was a show that had been canceled long before I was even born... that I was watching a show my parentscould've been into as teenagers. (Actually, I think they both hated the show, but whatever.) The fashions? I wore them in the early 80's. The shag carpeting and tacky furniture? I was all-too-familiar with that. Check out pictures of my old house if you don't believe me. Okay, maybe my life wasn't as orangey-tacky as the Bradys', but it never occurred to me they were from another era. All I saw were kids who had wacky adventures, whose problems were neatly solved in 30 minutes or less.

Last year, I was babysitting for a 7-year-old girl who got to watch one hour of TV a day. Out of all the options available to her on the glorious invention that is satellite TV, one of her daily TV choices was Brady Bunch reruns. Once I joined her for a viewing. I found myself laughing at the jokes and Brady hi-jinks. It's been nearly 40 years since the show premiered, and it's still entertaining people of all ages. The Bradys, like it or not, will live on.

Far out. 



FULL HOUSE
Years It Aired: 1987-1995
Years I Was Into It: 1990-
 

Full House entered my life when I was 8 or 9. Some of the other girls in my class watched it regularly, and they would come to school talking about the jokes, the quotes, the music, and the plots. I didn't watch the show. I was the girl with the 8 o'clock bedtime. But when it went into syndication a few years later, I caught episodes here and there. And as my bedtime increased to 8:30, I even got to see some of the newer ones.

The summer I turned 12, I got really into it. When the 1992 season premier rolled around, I was looking forward to it like nobody's business. That was the episode where Stephanie and Michelle accidentally flew to New Zealand. I remember that because there was a picture in our local TV guide of Stephanie and Michelle in the plane going "Aughhh!" I was also super excited to see how they'd change the theme song pictures. See, every season, the actors would smile at the camera in a new way during the theme song. Okay, so the adults' smiles didn't always change year-to-year, but the kids' did. Hmmm, what will D.J. be doing this year? Will she put on her lipstick? Will she talk on the phone? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME!

I can't think of any show I was more in love with from the ages of 11&1/2 to 13&1/2 than Full House. I used to imagine the future reunion show... What will the Tanners be doing in 10 years? Although I wasn't quite as obsessed during its final season, I still watched most of the episodes. Afterwards, I made it my goal to watch any TV-movie or film with one of the cast members. This is how I found myself in a theater watching It Takes Two, starring the Olsen Twins. (For what it's worth, it's really an okay movie. Really.)

For years I watched the show in syndication. I saw many of the episodes multiple times. There are certain ones I love -- the episodes where the Tanners go to Disney World, for instance. There are episodes I can't stand -- pretty much any episode where Michelle thinks Uncle Jesse is mean and doesn't like her anymore. When the show was released on DVD, I made good use of my Netflix account and began watching them in order. It's funny; sometimes when I watch episodes from season 2, 3, and 4 I can clearly remember snippets of conversations from my fellow elementary school classmates. How they sang Beach Boys songs on the playground after one or more of the Beach-Boy-cameo episodes had aired. How they envied D.J. the time she got $20 from a bewildered tooth fairy. How I had no idea who the heck they were talking about, but I wasn't about to admit it.

Some people think the show was corny... yes, it could be. Some think it was overly-sentimental... sure, sometimes. But I liked it then and I like it now. Maybe I just like sentimentality and silliness. Maybe Full House just my kind of show.

And I'm still waiting for that reunion movie. 


MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD
Years It Aired: 1968-2001
Years I Was Into It: 1985-1992

 

When I was really little, I didn't have a choice in what I watched on television... my parents would turn on the TV and wrench the dial to the appropriate channel. As I got older, I'd assert my independence by sneaking downstairs on Saturday mornings and sitting through five hours of cartoons. But at age five, my parents had control -- and one of them, I forget who, introduced me to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Rewatching some of the old episodes, it's clear to me why I didn't object to this choice. Mr. Rogers was a great show for little kids. It was predictable to a point -- Mr. Rogers followed certain routines every day, which kids at that age tend to appreciate. Mr. Rogers would always start off the show with the same song. He'd change from a sports coat into a sweater and he'd change his shoes. He'd feed his pet fish and take us to the land of Make-Believe for some puppet action. But would we travel there by trolley, or would he get out the toy models instead? (And how cool was it that he had an actual trolley running through his house?)



In the end, he'd sing a song -- typically one song in particular -- bid us goodbye, and leave. Which didn't make a lot of sense, because if this was his house, why was he leaving? Where was he going? I thought he slept here! Okay, so there's no bedroom. Maybe he has two homes! Maybe he has a mistress! Maybe.....

Sure, sometimes Mr. Rogers seemed a bit creepy. He'd address the children at home via the camera, speaking to us, asking us questions. I remember when I first began watching the show, I thought Mr. Rogers really could see me, because it seemed like no matter where I moved in the room, his eyes followed me. I'm still not convinced they don't. The puppets in the Land of Make-Believe were a huge step down from the puppets I was used to watching (Muppets); their mouths didn't even move! And they had lame names! And Lady Elaine Fairchild was the freakiest-looking thing in puppet history! But still, they amused me.



Aside from the trolley, the fish, and the land of Make-Believe, Mr. Rogers's day often included visitors to his home, including the postman Mr. McFeely, who'd deliver messages. Sometimes Mr. Rogers would pay a visit elsewhere, including trips to factories where things like graham crackers or crayons were produced. These were special events because few people get to see what goes on behind factory doors... and for me, especially, these were mesmerizing segments. Even when Mr. Rogers didn't go anywhere and didn't have visitors, he'd make things interesting in his home. He might make a simple craft; he might do some sort of science demonstration using sand or water. Everything he did was simple, but he made it sound like it was the most exciting thing in the world.

Like many other shows of my childhood, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood encouraged creativity. I was all about that. But he also made you feel good. He sang songs about how we were special. Sometimes, even now, I listen to his songs, and for a second I really believe it. I am special... because Mr. Rogers says so, dammit!

 



FUN HOUSE
Years It Aired: 1988-1991
Years I Was Into It: 1988-1990



In the late 80s and early 90s, weekday afternoon television was pretty fantastic. In between DuckTales, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Square One TV, and the occasional rerun of Small Wonder, there was this zany, exciting, oft-messy game show called Fun House.

Each day, two teams of kids would compete for a chance to run through a prize-tag-filled fun house. The first round of competitions involved trivia and doing messy or goofy tasks, like trying to run with slimy balloons or building each other into foam sandwiches. The second round featured a race around a track, where one teammate would often push the other in some kind of cart, they would try to collect things for points.

Those rounds were all fine and good. But they were nothing compared to to the end result, the grand finale, the place every kid wished she could live...

THE FUN HOUSE



In the Fun House round, the team with the highest score in the earlier rounds got 2 minutes to run through a multi-level construction filled with booby traps, barriers, and goop, trying to collect prize tags. The players had to go one at a time, and each person could only take 3 tags per trip (before having to trade out with the other player). Those 2 minutes went by fast, so while more adept teams could often score 6-7 tags, some teams got fewer. The prizes were things any kid between 10 and 14 could want: TVs, stereos, walkmen, bikes, trips to Disney World... and cash, beautiful cash.

Evolving over time, the Fun House seemed to get better and better. I remember a rotating tube they could crawl through. A room filled with balloons they had to push or pop past. A room with shower doors, where some were locked and some weren't -- thereby turning it into a maze. Later in the show's run, there was a water slide that dropped you into a pool. The Fun House Factory has a great list (with pictures!) of many of the features included in the House over the years.

My brother and I loved Fun House so much, we tried constructing our own interpretation in the basement... but we only got as far as the balloons and a hastily-made tunnel. We made lofty plans to apply for the show together, as soon as both of us were old enough (you had to be at least 10.) Unfortunately, it was canceled more than a year before we both reached that age.

In 1990, Fun House went into syndication and moved to another channel -- our local FOX affiliate, which our TV only barely received. This was devastating. It was worse than if the show had been outright canceled, because we knew it was airing -- we just couldn't see much more than than gray static. Maybe a red arm here, a glint of a giant foam sandwich there... And so, sadly, we moved on.

J.D. Roth, Fun House's young, spunky, red-headed host would not be forgotten. I saw his name appear as producer on The Biggest Loser recently. I picture him looking just like he did 20 years ago. It's quite comical, actually. And when I see his name, I remember the fun house, the waterslide, the race track, the stunts... and I smile. Every kid should have a show like Fun House -- a legendary, messy, all-kinds-of-awesome weekday afternoon show. 


The above TV show profiles were written in 2008 and published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com.

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors

So serious question, here: What good are parents, if you can’t make fun of them from time to time? I do love my mother, but parents in general... they’re such easy targets. See, parents are old. And, as they say on the internet, old=lol. Therefore, parents have this built-in hilarity potential. It is up to the children to exploit it. After all -- if we don’t, who will?

My mom calls me a packrat, because my room is cluttered and I like to collect things. However, I totally got this trait from my parents, so I don't know what she's complaining about.

Today my mother showed me a box of Halloween decorations and told me she was planning to get rid of them. But first she wanted to know if I had a particular attachment to any of the things within. I did, but only to one -- a rubber ghost, about an inch and a half tall. When I told her I wanted to salvage this ghost, she started in on her packrat lecture, but I did not back down. She finally said I could keep it, so I went to go put it away.

The "Halloween decorations box" (or, I should say, the box of decorations that she isn't trying to throw out) is in a cupboard in our laundry room. As I brought the box down from that high cupboard and prepared to add the ghost to its contents, I couldn’t help noticing some of the other things that were in that cupboard. There’s sure a lot of weird stuff in there.



So I did what any good daughter would do. I ran and got my camera.

So let's see what's in here...



For starters, here is a bird, possibly a seagull, resting on a stick. And its point is... what, exactly? Even if this was on our coffee table instead of in a cupboard, I can’t see it as having any real "conversation piece" potential. It’s a bird. On a stick. Whose idea was this?

Maybe someday my kids will need to make a diorama of the Oregon coast for school, and they will need this thing. Until then, uh... I’m sticking it back in the cupboard.




A really old bottle of Orange Crush. Not sure how old. They didn’t do "freshness dating" back then, go figure. It’s probably insta-poison now. Or maybe it’s the cure for cancer. We’ll never know, because I’m not about to open Pandora’s soda bottle, thank you very much.



Tinkertoys! I love these so much. They’re the wooden kind, not the dumb plastic ones. Great for poking out the eyes of your friends. My dad and I would play with these together back when I was, like, three. We’d construct ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds that would actually work when you turned a crank. Fun fun fun.




Look at those beauties. Just look at em. What could they have possibly done to deserve being banished to the cupboard to spend all eternity with the seagull sculpture?




Unopened Super Glue. This one time, I was curious about whether or not you could actually stick your fingers together with Super Glue. So I tried it. And yes, they adhere immediately and it’s really scary. And the saddest part of it all is that I wasn’t a little kid when I did this. I was 17. Moving on, now....




I haven't a friggin' clue what this is.




My mom has about a million candles. Here are four. She teaches second grade, and for some reason, she gets mounds of candles from her fellow co-workers on any given holiday. From the students, she gets mugs. She gets so many mugs that when I broke two of them last month, she didn’t even care. And this is a woman who will freak out if you spill two drops of apple juice on the hardwood floor or if you set fire to the rug. She’s protective of everything in the house.... except for the 10,000 mugs and 52,346 candles.




A toy clock. This was never my toy as a kid so I’m not sure what it’s doing in here. I’ve set it to 10:04 because I have this really ridiculous habit of setting non-working clocks to 10:04. Because it amuses me. Shut up.




So we’ve got some pieces of styrofoam in here, cuz um... cuz... okay, I got nothin'.




An ancient bottle of Coca-Cola. With grimy old Coke gunk stuck to the inside. Because we wouldn’t want that bottle of Orange Crush to be lonely or anything.




This is one of my old toys. You put the keys in the side, and they release the puzzle pieces, which can then be situated in a special spot on the top.

The green rectangle went missing a long time ago.




The box of an old electric toothbrush. It’s approved by the American Dental Association. If it’s good enough for Kevin McAllister, it’s good enough for me.



These were some water games Tomy made in the late 70’s. Did you ever notice Tomy makes the coolest products? Well, I know water games aren’t exactly original, but hell, this basketball game kept me entertained for hours.




A basket shaped like a pumpkin. This is one of the only things in this cupboard that is ever removed. My mom usually brings it out in October and fills it with candy. I like candy.




Random bottle of liquid bluing. Mrs. Stewart sure looks pissed about somethin’. Possibly her receding hairline.


So that’s our laundry room cupboard. One of them, anyway. Maybe sometime in the near future I’ll introduce you to our playroom closet. Want a sneak preview?




I don’t know what’s scarier, the fact that this dress exists... or the fact that my mom actually considered wearing it a couple of years ago.

It should be noted that every time she brings up the issue of me being a packrat, I remind her about this dress.

Now that’s a conversation piece. 



This article was originally published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com on December 2, 2005.

An Ode To Fisher-Price Little People



I think... no wait... yes! Yes, it is! This is the first article I've ever done on toys from my childhood! Isn't it the Internet Law or something that every retro-nostalgia-humor website (you know, all 11,000 of them) has to devote some time and space to talking about toys from long ago? Okay, then! Here we go!

So I was a child of the 80's, except that my parents didn't buy me any toys from the 80's during the 80's except for some Strawberry Shortcake stuff. Actually my whole room was adorned with the chic. Funny how now I am allergic to the fruit. Ha ha on you, Shortcake. I also had some mini Care Bears and like one G.I. Joe action figure that I never played with and some Transformers and stuff. All right, so I plain and simply lied. I had many 80's toys. But I also had the cheap knockoff Cabbage Patch dolls, so I get to complain. 

Thank you. 

Point is, though, my parents went to a lot of garage sales when I was little, so I ended up playing with a bunch of toys from the 60's and 70's, which was okay by me. And one thing they kept coming back with was Little People.

Fisher-Price Little People. Oh, how I loved them. They've evolved a lot over the years. For a while, they were wooden, then they went to a kind of hybrid wood-plastic, then all plastic. This is when they were still small, like these guys...


You may be aware of how, in later years, Little People grew taller, fatter, and eventually grew arms. Those are the ones you see in stores nowadays. They are tall and fat because apparently some moronic child went around swallowing the smaller ones and they probably sued the company or something. Because of that child, a whole new generation has had to suffer. Really, there was something special about the small ones. This article is all about them.

There are many groovy playsets you can get for the old-style Little People. I only own a few, and that makes me sad. If you want to see pictures of any of these that have no photos, just search for "Fisher Price Little People" under Toys & Games on ebay. 


Schoolhouse

I believe there were two Schoolhouses made for the Little People back in the day. This was one of them. 


The side opened up, and it also had doors, windows, a bell that actually made noise, and a clock!


Want to hear a random fact? A long, long time ago, I used to only own four or five LP children. So I would have the LP dogs go to school, too. No, I am not weird. 


Parking Garage

Oh man, the garage was intense! I had this at one time, but my parents got rid of it. So here's a shot of the one my aunt has.

It has three levels. To get to levels two and three, a LP car can drive up a ramp or take an actual working car elevator. There is also a people elevator, a gas pump, and a weird twirly thing on top that I never could quite figure out but that I enjoyed anyway. The whole thing is gigantic. Gigantic... and beautiful. 


Houses

There weren't a whole lot of options when it came to Little People dwellings. There was the standard house, which had a working doorbell, a garage, and four rooms. No bathroom for the poor little people. 


There was also an A-frame house with sliding doors and a bell. Here's a photo. Please excuse the crudity of this model, I didn't have to clean it and part of it is broken. :( 



The Farm

The Little People farm had a barn that had two levels, including a loft. Upon opening one of the doors on the main part, you would hear a "moo" sound! And there was silo whose sole purpose was to store excess animals and fence pieces... just like a real silo... or not. 



Playground


This playground, I believe, came with the other schoolhouse. It had two ride-on toys, a bench, and a slide. If you put a LP person on the top of the slide and pushed the little white button, down they would go. Wheeee! 


Sesame Street Clubhouse

This one ruled every school that has ever been built. It had a trapdoor/slide, a "plank" slide, a tire swing, a merry-go-round, a revolving door, and much more... and it came with Sesame Street LPs! And if you spun the merry-go-round fast enough, the LPs went flying off in all directions! Oh, such fun. 


Amusement Rides

All in all, I think there were three of these: a swing ride, a ferris wheel, and a merry-go-round. The latter two wound up, and the first was hand-controlled. They all played music. Here are some photographs. 




There was also a town, a Sesame Street "Street" playset, a castle, a firehouse, a zoo, an old west town, and a few other things that I have never personally laid eyes on. No matter which one I had as a kid (and at times, I had several, though my parents were really big on giving away my stuff or selling it at their own garage sales), I was always happy playing with Fisher-Price Little People. I could play for hours. I finally gave them up at a very embarrassing age, but not before they helped spark my imagination and instill in me a love for telling stories through characters. For that, I will love them forever.

This article was originally published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com on April 17, 2005.