Share this site - Email/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest          

"Seventies Childrens' and Cartoon Series"

ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS  These were thought up in the heady early '70s, when
people actually believed in educational TV for kids (of course, a federal
mandate that the network produce such shows also helped). One of the first
ones show, circa 1973, was titled "Last of the Curlews." A rather sad animated
hour about a bird becoming extinct. The shows originally aired monthly and were
a mixed bag of animation and live action. Other episodes included "Santiago's
Ark," "The Incredible Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon," "It Must Be Love --
Because I Feel So Dumb," and "Follow the North Star." Some productions were
light entertainments, while others could be utter downers. As the '70s were
on, they all became live-action domestic dramas, and depressing. (Bruce Elliot)
* Especially memorable was the marijuana one where Scott Baio pigs out on
chocolate ice cream before almost murdering his brother with an oar while
rowing on a lake; "Pinballs," starring Kristy McNichol and her awesome shag
haircut; the death-in-the-family one where Melissa Sue Anderson argues with
her little sister, who promptly falls out of a tree, breaking her neck.
Melissa must cope with the subsequent funeral, her parents' depression, and a
bunch of T-shirts her sister used to wear, with her name ironed on the front.
This was a traumatic episode; I don't think they ever ran it again. (Lisa
McElroy)

                                + + + + + +

THE BANANA SPLITS  Featured four guys in suits with dubbed dialogue. They went
by the names of Fleegle (a kind of dog), Bingo (a gorilla), Drooper (a sort of
lion), and Snorky (a baby elephant that never spoke). They jumped around,
played tricks on each other, and had a good time. They would also film little
segments of them running around in those little six-wheeled recreational
vehicles so popular at the time. And naturally, they had a rock band. During
the dreadful songs, we'd be treated to some proto-MTV-style video editing,
which mostly featured them running around an amusement park. The show also
featured a separate adventure segment called "Danger Island," featuring Jan
Michael Vincent, which introduced the short-lived catch phrase "Oh-oh Chongo."
(Bruce Elliot) * This wild musical bunch of nameless guys in costumes of 
scruffy, unidentifiable creatures ran around Saturday morning TV way too fast 
as if to offer final proof that *everyone* who was *anyone* on TV in the '70s 
had to be a rock star or at the very least pretend to be. Now all you have to 
do to impress TV viewers under seven years old is kill people. Who says life 
doesn't get simpler? "One banana, two banana, three banana, four..." (Nina 
Blake) * The album is amazing, and why not? Participants on it include Al 
Kooper, Gene Pitney, and Barry White. About ten years ago, the band I was in 
covered and recorded "Gonna Find a Cave." In addition to their album, the 
Banana Splits released two 7" EPs and a couple of cereal-box-cutaway cardboard 
singles. (Gwynne Kahn)

                                + + + + + +

THE ELECTRIC COMPANY  "The Electric Company" was the kids' show that I
actually learned the most from, despite the fact that it's mainly remembered
for live-action "Spider-Man." I always liked it better than "Sesame Street"
now (not that I'm a regular, but passing through), I notice that a lot of
learning appears to be memorization, which isn't all that good. "E.C.," like
"Zoom!" (which I remember less), taught older kids. Plus, it had Tom Lehrer
songs and quite an opening ("Hey you guys!"). (Sean Gaffney) * The part I 
remember most was the silhouette of the two faces, each saying one of the two 
syllables of a word, which would visually fly out of their mouth as they spoke, 
thus creating the word: "C" "AT" "CAT," and then a little jingle played after 
it. (Jazmine Yates)

                                + + + + + +

GREAT SPACE COASTER  "It's the Great Space Coaster, get on board! On the Great
Space Coaster, we'll explore! Come and ride a fantasy, to a place where dreams
fly fast and free!" Gary Gnu rocked, and the prissy pink bird looked like a
toilet brush. (Morgan and Ferris) * The only thing really worthwhile about this 
puffy-character-littered kids show was "No Gnews is Good Gnews," where a foam 
rubber gnu puppet gave a newscast of absolute irrelevancies, successfully 
prophesying the current status of the news media (Jon Salenger)

                                + + + + + +

KROFFT SUPERSTARS  If the name "Lidsville" doesn't key you off to where these
two kiddie-show lunatics are coming from, you've already had too much to
smoke. They're responsible for the generational brain damage resulting from
bizarro Saturday morning fare such as "The Bugaloos," "Dr. Shrinker,"
"Wonderbug," "The Great Space Coaster," "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters," and
"Jurassic Park" precursor "Land of the Lost." One of the Spumco ("Ren and
Stimpy") animators told me he'd once scored 'shrooms from Krofft; in return,
he'd been informed that H.R. PufnStuf's initials stood for "hand-rolled." But
I still have my own theory about the show's homosexual/castration anxiety
subtext. An evil witch plots to steal a pretty young British boy's magic
flute, until he is saved by a chickenhawk-like father figure who calls himself
"Puf" (as in "pouf"?). (Gwynne Kahn) * Sid and Marty started out doing puppet 
shows on the '64 World's Fair and eventually produced "Donny and Marie." Along 
the way, they left a freaked-out swath in the minds of a generation. It 
featured an enormous pinball machine you could ride in. (Bruce Elliot) * 
Recently there was a Sid and Marty tribute-type event at the Hollywood 
Directors' Guild. My sister and I went, forced our way into Sid and Marty's 
face, and -- despite the rest of the crowd waiting for some of their 
attention -- made them take pictures with us, sign our souvenirs (I hate that!), 
and handed them a copy of "Ben Is Dead" magazine while professing our gratitude 
for their inspiration. When inside they spoke of the new upcoming movie versions 
of some of their Saturday morning cartoon shows, and I uncontrollably blurted 
out, "Can my sister and I be Electra-Woman and Dynagirl?" Gulp. Silence. And 
then, I can't believe it, they completely ignored me! Whatever! At least I 
learned the correct lyrics to the very important song "Oranges Poranges," sung 
by Witchiepoo's punk rock band: "Oranges poranges, who said... there ain't no
rhyme to oranges." (Darby Romeo) * At the end of every H.R. PufnStuf episode, 
Puf exclaimed, "Keep those cards and letters coming!" I took this to heart and
wrote Jimmy (Jack Wilde), who set my five-year-old heart aflame. A love letter
in an envelope crayoned full of X's and O's. When I received a typewritten
letter in return I felt like Marcia Brady after meeting Desi Arnaz, Jr. It
wasn't until more than a decade later that my mother admitted to the
interception of my letter and forgery, with the lame excuse that the show was
already in reruns. (Lorraine Mahru)

                                + + + + + +

LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP  The greatest live-action children's show ever,
this all-primate (as in, *no humans*) rock 'n' roll spy spoof ran for two
precious seasons only starting in 1970, though it has since been rerun on
Nickelodeon and The Comedy Channel. Cast, in addition to the simian 007 Lance,
included Mata Hairi; Inspector Darwon; (negative German stereotype) Baron von
Butcher; (negative Spanish stereotype) Creto; (negative Asian stereotypes)
Dragon Woman an Wang Fu; (negative Arab stereotype) Ali Assassin; and (Brit
stereotype who looked eerily like Queen Elizabeth) the Duchess. ABC/Dunhill
released an album of Lance's groovy group the Evolution Revolution, easily one
of the most brilliant rock albums of the era. (Gwynne Kahn) * After its two-
season run on ABC, the producers realized this entirely dubbe dshow could be 
redubbed and shown in almost any TV market in the world. Alas, the secret-agent 
formula didn't translate well in most markets. However, the show did very well 
when it ran in Central Africa, andin 1987 it became the number-one show in 
Zaire. (Bruce Elliot)

                                + + + + + +

THE MUPPET SHOW  Okay, who else thought they were real when they were little
kids? "Sesame Street" was cool until you outgrew it and moved on to "The
Electric Company," then it was "3-2-1 Contact," and then you were ready for
the big time -- "The Muppet Show" (begun in 1976). Featuring guests like the
"Star Wars" characters, Debbie Harry, Liberace, and GG Allin (What? You don't
remember that one?), the Muppets revived the variety show for the next
generation too young to remember "The Smothers Brothers" or "Donny and Marie."
There were hints at animal crossbreeding between pigs and frogs, the Mad
Bomber, the Swedish Chef, Pigs in Space, Beaker, and a host of other cool
characters. Remember how awesome Animal was? I had an Animal puppet I used to
carry with me everywhere and got this girl to go out on a date with me in
second grade by convincing her it was the puppet's birthday! Pretty smooth,
huh? I still think one of my best opening lines has to be when I walked up to
a beautiful Hollywood sex goddess and said, "So... who's _your_ favorite
Muppet?" (Howard Hallis) * Miss Piggy was sooo big at one point, she reached 
the closest state to being human a nonhuman creature can reach. I think she even
went to one of those gala affairs with Michael Jackson or something. She was
sexy, and tough, and I bet she got a lot of marriage proposals. (Ju-Ji 
Yamasuki) * Jim Henson (R.I.P.) created these in the early '50s, specifically 
for TV. He coined their name by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet." 
Kermit has been around since the beginning and Miss Piggy was originally called 
Piggy Lee. The muppets were a fixture on the old Ed Sullivan show. Even before 
"Sesame Street," I had a stuffed ventriloquist-style doll of Rolf (the gravel-
voiced dog who played piano). Almost forgotten today are the grotesque reptilian
muppets who appeared on "Saturday Night Live"'s first season. They lived in a
steamy primordial world, where they all worshipped a stone idol that spoke
with a Brooklyn accent. The humor of these bits was decidedly adult. When Lily
Tomlin hosted the show, she sang a duet of "I Got You, Babe" with one of these
muppets named Scrag. Side note: Deep in the bowels of the NBC building at
Rockefeller Center, there is a notoriously crappy dressing room. It is tiny,
and has a "closet" that is actually a simple pipe access. Jim Henson and Frank
Oz got stuck with this room in 1956 when they were doing "The Steve Allen
Show." Pissed off at the crummy quarters, they painted all sorts of trippy
muppetlike faces onto the pipes. Now legendary, the faces are stil there!
(Bruce Elliot)

                                + + + + + +

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK  Number two in the book of "Oh my god do you remember....?"
right after Sid and Marty Krofft shows. People have reremebered each and every
episode of these between-Saturday-morning-cartoons and short-form animations,
from "Conjunction Junction" to "Interplanet Janet" to the lonely little "I'm
Just a Bill" sitting on Capitol Hill. In the past few years there were
actually a few Schoolhouse Rock "tribute" bands; they've started showing the
episodes on TV again, and now they're offering the collection on video, and
Rhino Records has released the whole collection on CD. These shorts came from
a time when teaching children through TV was actually attempted. I passed one
of my history tests specifically because I remembered "The Preamble Song" ("We
the people..."), and lolly lolly lolly do I know where to get my adverbs!
Learning through a song is a great concept if you can keep a beat -- just ask
Potsie. (Darby Romeo) * "A noun's a special kinda word, it's any name you ever
heard, I find it quite interesting, a noun is a person, place, or thing!"
(Bridget Miller) * I never learned my times tables in third grade because our 
teacher had huge charts with all of them staplegunned to the ceiling and you 
could just look up during tests and copy the answers. But I did finally learn 
my three-times tables from Multiplication Rock's "Three Is a Magic Number." It
ruled; there was this funky groove with simply "3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24,
27, 30." (Riley More) * I remember the cartoons for "Hey Little Twelvetoes" and
"Figure Eight" as being so dreamy and poignant; they always made me sad.
(Nina Blake) * Note: Keep an eye out for Bob "Three Is a Magic Number" Dorough,
who's been touring the U.S. recently -- sometimes with other old-school
Schoolhouse folks -- singing all of your favorites. As well, try to catch "The
Simpsons" parody of these shorts. Brilliant.

                                + + + + + +

SESAME STREET  Long-running, liberal-oriented kids' show: who didn't watch it?
This was almost as important as going to school -- perhaps since we got just as
much out of it. Their trips to the factories with that weird trippy bouncy
Stereolab-ish music in the background. Mr. Hooper's death. Each episode was
brought to you by a number and a letter. I loved the painter, played by the
English neighbor on "The Jeffersons," who while trying to paint the number on
a door would inevitably goof up and paint it on some bald guy's head. Their
fine line of fad LPs: "Sesame" disco, "Sesame Street" Fever, "Sesame" country,
etc. Nobody ever should have ever seen the Snuffle-upagus but Big Bird! (Darby
Romeo) * Bert and Ernie (I always wondered if they were TV's first gay couple) 
doin' the pigeon walk -- and finally got to see Bert's legs! (Bridget Miller) * 
And Oscar the Grouch who lived in a trash can, TV's first homeless puppet. 
(Nina Blake)

                                + + + + + +

ZOOM!  Between Fanny Doodle, "The Cat Came Back" song, and Miss Mary Mac, kids
learned more than just the zip for Boston, Mass. (02134) (Katy Krassner) * I 
learned that it was possible to eat lemons, 'cause the littlest girl on the show 
did and shocked all the other kids. (Ju-Ji Yamasuki) * "Zoom!" or "The Stepford 
Children"? Horrible Boston-based PBS kids' program in which child prisoners 
(all wore matching striped polo shirts) played boring games, acted nice around 
each other and kids with handicaps, and generally behaved themselves. (Nick 
Gillespie)

                                + + + + + +

CARTOON SERIES:

EMERGENCY PLUS FOUR  Jack Webb productions briefly branched out into Saturday
morning cartoons with this spin-off from "Emergency." Our two favorite firemen
tooled around with a van full of ethnically balanced kids who couldn't stay out
of trouble. (Bruce Elliot)

FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS  Based on Cosby's records from the early '60s,
"Fat Albert" was an animated show set in a slum in North Philadelphia.
Colorful characters such as the eponymous Fat Albert, Russell, Mushmouth, and
Rudy. It always ended with a moralistic musical number in which the Kids
played instruments fashioned out of junk. (Nick Gillespie) * Hey hey hey. I 
always thought it was weird, this black guy pretending to be hanging out with 
these black cartoon characters. Bill was a good guy though. And I always wished 
Fat Albert was _my_ friend. But the character we'd imitate the most was the
Mushmouth guy who talked "eyebadeyba" with big flubbering lips. They were a
jammin' junk rock band (later influencing Einsturzende Neubauten, Pussy
Galore, Artis the Spoonman, and Doo Rag) and always went to their hideout to
watch the cartoon "The Brown Hornet." We can only assume this influenced Matt
Groening's "Simpsons" to have their own "Itchy and Scratchy." (Darby Romeo/Noel
Tolentino)

FUNKY PHANTOM  A Bicentennial-inspired cartoon about a dead Revolutionary War
hero who helped three modern-day teens solve Scooby-Doo-esque mysteries.
Funky's catchphrase: "Heavens to Hessians!" (Nick Gillespie)

ISIS  The premise of this show was that a young lady archeologist finds an
Egyptian amulet on a dig and is compelled to put it on. The next thing you
know -- blammo! -- she's become the living embodiment of Isis, the Egyptian
goddess of fertility! Along with this fancy new outfit, she gets all these
funky superpowers and flies around (with her arms outstretched behind her in a
very un-Superman-like style) doing good deeds and righting wrongs -- you know,
all that superheroine stuff that you would expect, with the requisite moral to
be learned at the end of the episode. I definitely had a crush on the classy
chick who played Isis. (Creepy Mike Ruspantini)

JEM  The rock star, the doll, the cartoon, the role model. "Jem is her name,
no one else is the same!" (Skylaire Alfvegren) * Truly outrageous! By igniting 
her earrings she was transformed -- "Synergy power, on!" But beware of the
Misfits! The anti-Jem band who sang in the opening credits, "We are the
Misfits, our songs are better, and we're gonna get her!" (Morgan and Ferris)

JONNY QUEST  Or, Jonny has two daddies. First animated series to showcase a
positive portrayal of a gay couple, "J.Q." followed the adventures of young
Jonny; his father, Dr. Quest; his father's muscular companion, Race Bannon;
Indian orphan Hadji; and lovable pooch, Bandit. A Hanna-Barbera production,
"J.Q." took place in a world without women that was populated exclusively by
thawed-out cavemen, ex-Nazi commanders, and Third World industrialists with
pet Komodo dragons. (Nick Gillespie) * I still desperately want to live the 
Jonny Quest lifestyle and careen through an all-male realm of exotic adventure. 
I still want to travel the world in a supersonic jet with my bearded scientist 
dad, who can deflect a laser beam with his watch. I still want Race Bannon to 
swing down, rescue me, and keep me safe in his big buff arms. But more than 
anything else, I want to hear twangy spy-guitar music playing everywhere I go. 
(Bruce Elliot)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS  Saturday morning cartoon, 1970 to 1974. A fondly
recalled gem from the days when every cartoon had to have its own rock group.
In this ditty, an all-girl group toured the globe and just couldn't seem to
stay out of trouble. Kasey Kasem did the voice of Alexander, the hippie
manager, and future "Charlie's Angels" star Cheryl Ladd was the voice of
Sherri, the dumb blonde. During the second season, the Pussycats found
themselves launched into space, where they found even more trouble and
adventures. Each episode would feature the gals doing a horrid song. Capitol
Records eventually put out an album of them and sent a band of studio hacks on
tour with it. Rumor has it that Kim Carnes, of "Bette Davis Eyes" fame, was one
of the singers. They also did tie-ins with Kellogg's who put Pussycat records
on the backs of "specially marked boxes." One obscure note: CBS used this as
the flagship of its 1970 Saturday morning season and went so far as to create
a series of informational vignettes featuring various Pussycats explaining
facts about the world. The vignettes ran between other cartoons, under the
title "In the Know," with the gals doing the theme song. After "Josie and the
Pussycats" was canceled, CBS revamped the vignettes and retitled them "In the
News," which they ran under this title until 1992. (Bruce Elliot)

ROGER RAMJET  "Roger Ramjet, he's our man. If he can't do it, no one can."
Like Underdog, Popeye, and others, Roger Ramjet ingested some drug (Proton
Energy Pills) to become ultrapowerful and save the day. Unlike most other
cartoons, however, "Roger Ramjet" was actually funny. (Don Bolles)

SHAZAM!  The "Shazam!" show was a contemporary of "Isis" and was similar in
that it had a mythological source for the superhero's power. In this case,
it's the whole pantheon of Greek gods/goddesses, who choose Billy Batson to
wield the power of Captain Marvel and fight against the evil forces of modern
times (i.e., the decadent '70s). Along with the guidance of the gods (whom he
has a confab with at the beginning of each episode), Billy also had a
traveling companion/mentor that went around with him giving him advice while
he kicked ass on the bad guys. As with "Isis," there was always a moral lesson
to be learned at the conclusion of the show. (Creepy Mike Ruspantini)

WAIT 'TIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME  After the "Flintstones" and before "The
Simpsons," there was a syndicated cartoon that ran in prime time in many
markets called "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home." It featured the voices of
Tom Bosley, Jack Burns, and several others. The dad was an Archie Bunker-type
guy trying to deal with the wild and crazy times and with his hippie kid, and
it was about as funny. The pilot episode appeared on "Love, American Style."
Later, the same pilot was done with a live cast, and starred Van Johnson: it
didn't fly. (Bruce Elliot)

OTHER CARTOON SERIES:  Addams Family; Archies; Atom Ant; Bad Cat, Baggy Pants
and the Nitwits; Banana Splits; Battle of the Planets; Beany and Cecil; Beverly
Hills Teens; (Fat Albert's) The Brown Hornet; Brady Kids; Broomhilda; Bugs
Bunny/Roadrunner Hour; Captain America; Care Bears; Centurions; Charlie Brown
specials; Chilly Willy; Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse; Defenders of the
Earth; Donkey Kong; Dr. Suess specials: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Cat in
the Hat; Claymation: Davey and Goliath, Gumby, Mr. Bill, and Rudolph; Droopy;
Dungeons and Dragons; Dynaman; Ewoks; Fantastic Four; Far Out Space Nuts;
Felix; The Flintsones; Pebbles and Bamm Bamm; Captain Caveman and the Teen
Angels; Galaxy Rangers; Garfield; G.I. Joe; GoBots; Godzilla; Grape Ape;
Groovie Ghoulies; Sabrina; Wacky and Packy, The New Adventures of Waldo Kitty,
Lassie, etc.; Happy Days in Space; Harlem Globetrotters; Heckle and Jeckle;
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; Hercules; Herself the Elf; Hong Kong
Fooey; Huckleberry Hound; Inch High; Private Eye; Inspector Gadget; Jabberjaw;
Jem; Jesus; Jetsons; Kid Super Power Hour; Kimba; Laff-A-Limpics; Lippy the
Lion & Har Dee Har Har; The littles; Mad Monster Party; Magilla Gorilla;
Mighty Heroes; Mighty Man; (Ralph Bashki's) Mighty Mouse; Monchichis; Mr.
Magoo; Mr. T; Muppet Babies; My Little Pony; New Shmoo; The Osmonds; Pac-Man;
Pink Panther; Pole Position; Popeye; Possible Possum; Punky Brewster; Q*bert;
Quickdraw McGraw; Richie Rich; Robotech; The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show; Dudley
Doright; Tom Slick; George of the Jungle; Super Chicken; Commander McBragg;
Sherman and Mr. Peabody; Fractured Fairy Tales; Wacky Races; Catch That
Pigeon; Roman Holidays; Rubik; Schoolhouse Rock; Scooby-Doo; Secret Squirrel;
She-Ra; The Shirt Tales; Skrewy Squirrel; The Smurfs; Snagglepuss; Snorks;
Space Ghost; Speed Racer; Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends; Squiggly Diddly;
Star Trek; Strawberry Shortcake; Sub Mariner; The Superfriends: Dyno Mutt and
Blue Falcon, Wonder Twins, Aquaman, Superman, Wonder Woman; Super Adventures:
The Fantastic Four, Bird Man, Herculoids, etc.; Tennessee Tuxedo; The
Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour; Thor; Thundercats; Tom and Jerry; Top Cat;
Transformers; Underdog; Voltron; Wally Gator; Woody Woodpecker; Yogi Bear;
Zorro.


- Excerpted from "Retro Hell" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1997).

###


Kids Series on DVD at Amazon.com


Love Icon Archives Intro | Main Page | Seventies Almanac | The Classic 500 | Search The RockSite/The Web