ten on tuesday: shows of my youth

Today’s topic (as usual, from Carole) is “Ten Favorite TV Shows From [Your] Childhood.”

What a pickle, if you think about it: what part of childhood? If you count early childhood, grade school, middle school, and high school, there’s a ton of possible fodder for this. So I’m going t pick three from my early years (ages 2-6), three from the middle years (7-12), three from the later years (13-18), and one from my college days, when I needed a youthful release show.

I also decided that, to be fair, these shows had to be in first-run – no reruns or syndication allowed. Yes, this removes a lot of shows from contention, but it makes the job of culling the list a tiny bit easier.

So strap in – it’s going to be a bumpy ride:

  1. Sesame Street. This was the most-watched show of my early years, bar none. Bert and Ernie (or “Nert ‘n’ Nernie,” as I first called them) are ingrained in my memory as far back as I can recall, as are Sam the Robot (a much maligned Muppet), the “yip yip” martians, Harvey Kneeslapper, and Don Music. All of the adults, the Muppets, the animated interstitials, the songs by Joe Raposo (here’s a fave, and here’s another, and here’s a third) – they all inhabit a special place in my psyche.
  2. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers inspired me as a kid. He taught me that feelings were OK to share, that life doesn’t have to be fast, and that simple hand puppets are magical. He respected his young viewers in a way that few TV shows, before or since, have done. His example lives on today, and I aspire to be even 1/10 the man that Fred Rogers was. When he died in 2003, I cried – and even before I heard of his death, that same day (February 27, 2003), I went to the Smithsonian and saw his sweater. It’s as if I sensed that he had passed away and had to visit an old friend. His goodbye message to viewers is very touching.
  3. Hotel Balderdash. If you didn’t spend your youth in Utah, this one is likely a head scratcher. But I remember the antics of Cannonball (the hotel manager) and Harvey (the hapless bellboy) at their crazy hotel. This show aired over 400 episodes per year, with separate episodes for the morning and afternoon. It was a lot of very corny humor, but it was delivered sincerely with a fair dose of slapstick. You can see some clips about two minutes into this story from KTVX TV, aired as part of their 60th anniversary celebration (of all the shows in the piece, I only knew Hotel Balderdash).
  4. CHiPs. A mix of chase scenes, crimes, and comedy – perfect fodder for a tween. And I loved this show. Even when Larry Wilcox left for a spell, I continued to watch “7-Mary 3 and 4” do their patrols of the L.A. basin. Sure, it wasn’t high-level TV, but it was entertaining. Even now, if I’m in a hotel, flipping through the channels, and I land on CHiPs, I’ll stop and watch the remainder of the episode.
  5. Battlestar Galactica. Sure, they remade this recently, but the original holds a strong place in my memory. The banter between straight-laced Apollo and loose-cannon Starbuck was great, and Lorne Greene, as Commander Adama, was a wonderful father figure. The opening credits were, well, totally ripped from Star Trek, but were still cool.While I watched this show in first-run, I re-watched it in its initial syndication, as well (and yes, I watched the ugly mess that was Galactica 1980.
  6. Family Ties. What a classic sitcom! The show was both a tribute and a reaction to the 1980s, embracing the hopes of the Reagan generation (in the embodiment of Alex and, to a lesser extent, Mallory), while still abiding by the hopes of the “recovering hippie” generation of Steven and Elise. Jennifer provided a sarcastic-cum-innocent middle-ground, of sorts. Sure, when they did the inevitable shark jump of bringing in Andy, all bets were off, but the show was remarkably consistent and believable – far more than most sitcoms ever are, even today.
  7. Night Court. Lightweight humor? Sure. But Harry Anderson was great in this show, as was the entire supporting cast. John Larroquette’s lecherous Dan Fielding had a heart underneath all of the double-entendres, and Richard Moll’s Bull was a lot smarter than anybody realized. And it’s also the show that introduced the world to the talents of Brent “Commander Data” Spiner.
  8. Cheers. A great show from beginning to end, with great characters and a lot of heart. I watched every episode of this show, loved it all, and similarly loved its spin-off, Frasier.
  9. Newhart. This is one of the great sitcoms of all time. Bob Newhart’s character, Dick Loudon, is so perfect in terms of timing, and the rest of the cast was equally talented. And the way the series ended is one of the best series endings of all time.
  10. Animaniacs. During my college years, this show was a perfect escape: razor-sharp humor, a lot of jokes that were aimed squarely at adults, and enough nods to the classic “Looney Tunes” formula of the classic Warner Brothers cartoon studio. Between the lunacy of Wakko, Yakko and Dot, or the Citizen Kane meets The Village Idiot wit of Pinky and The Brain, this show simply worked – and brilliantly, at that. Given it’s an election year (ugh – enough with the ads already!), here’s a musical revue of the Presidents (through the mid-90s, at least).

Honorable Mentions: The Electric Company, Zoom, The Dukes of Hazzard, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, Buck Rogers, The Voyagers, Diff’rent Strokes, 3-2-1 Contact, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Remington Steele, Moonlighting, The A Team, Battle of the Planets, and I’m sure many, many more!

What are your faves? Let me know in the comments!

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