Saturday, August 20, 2016

Those cold-cereal-and-footy-pajamas days

I’ve socked away enough movies and TV reruns on our DISH Hopper that I won’t be starved for entertainment soon…but I’m kind of anal-retentive when it comes to dubbing material to discs.  For example, if I record a movie that’s an hour-and-a-half long…I fret about that extra half-hour going to waste.  Ordinarily, I’d fill up the remaining time with the stray Tee Cee Em one- or two-reeler or TV rerun…but shorts on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ often run few and far between.  So I went looking for an alternative.

I found it in the form of KTV (Kids & Teens TV), a religious-family channel we’re still getting on DISH (Wikipedia says it’s a DISH exclusive).  Now, because I am a practicing heathen (well, technically—I no longer need to practice; I’m pretty darn accomplished at it now) I have little use for roughly 95% of KTV’s content.  But there are nuggets among the dross; I found a few shows that were favorites when I was a youngster, and revisiting them has been a splendid exercise in nostalgia.

But I need to issue a caveat here.  It was Thomas Wolfe who observed, “You can’t go home again,” and I think he hit the nail on the head.  When you’re a kid, you really don’t pay too much attention to the quality of the crappy made-for-TV animation (well, unless you’re Thad Komorowski)—you just want movement, supplemented with explosions if necessary.  As I have gotten older, I’ve looked back on various cartoon shows of yore (I’m talking to you, Cool McCool) and asked myself “Why was I watching this again?”

Here’s a good example: KTV currently offers The Mighty Hercules, a syndicated cartoon series that originally aired between 1963-66.  I talked a little bit about the show when it was announced in 2011 that a DVD release of some of the cartoons was eminent, but here’s all you really to know: the animation on this series was abysmal.  Plus, I never did figure out what the point was of Hercules having that creepy centaur sidekick around; he repeated himself like that mobster in GoodFellas (“I’m gonna go get the papers, get the papers”).  The saddest thing about Hercules is that they’ve re-released his show with a brand new set of opening credits and song (despite the plus-side that the cartoons look like they’ve been restored), effectively destroying the only good thing The Mighty Hercules had going for it—the unforgettable Johnny Nash theme (“Hercules/Hero of song and story/Hercules/Winner of ancient glory”).  Let’s venture into the WABAC, shall we?

I watched the heck of this when I was a kid—it aired weekday mornings on WHTN (later WOWK) along with long-forgotten cartoon cobwebs like The Adventures of Sinbad, Jr. and the occasional stray Terrytoon (Hector Heathcote, Hashimoto-san, etc.).  I DVR’d one episode from KTV, watched it, and decided that some things are best left in the memory banks.  (Though I had forgotten about Hercules’ cry of “Olympiaaaaa!”—it’s a shame no one signed him up for a beer endorsement.)

But I can’t say that for all of the cartoon shows on KTV.  Case in point: Roger Ramjet, another limited animation classic that plays a lot better in retrospect due to its Rocky and Bullwinkle-like refusal to take things too seriously (I enjoyed the voice work on Roger, too).  KTV also has The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo on its schedule, which still holds up pretty well (it alternates with The Mr. Magoo Show, which I always looked forward to watching whenever I visited my grandparents as a kid).  I have a special affinity for the near-sighted character voiced by Jim Backus because when I was an infant, my grandfather proclaimed to my mother I was the spitting image of Magoo.

KTV runs a few classic shows that I don’t have a particular interest in: The Archie Show, The Secret Life of Waldo Kitty, Lassie’s Rescue Rangers, etc.—though I did DVR an episode of Space Academy for shits and giggles.  I also caught an edition of The Harveytoons Show the other day, which edited the old Paramount Noveltoons into a half-hour presentation that regretfully has removed the opening credits on each short (I hate when that happens).  The show was syndicated in 1998, and while I still think the Harvey characters were better served in comic books (jeez, did I have a lot of those as a kid) it’s a painless way to kill 21 minutes.  (Besides, Jerry Beck was a consultant on this show—it has some modicum of credibility.)

Which is the other benefit of KTV’s cartoon programming: they don’t interrupt these shows for commercials (I had my finger on the DVD Recorder remote, ready to spring into action).  I like that.  I like that a lot.  Though you have to take the bitter with the sweet; they do have that big honkin’ KTV logo superimposed over the cartoons—sometimes it’s so large I mistake it for a billboard in the background of the animation.


Terence Towles Canote said...

I've often rewatched a lot of those old cartoons I saw as a kid and wonder what I was thinking in watching them! Fortunately, there are a few that do hold up fairly well. I've been rewatching Astro Boy on Hulu. The animation is fairly limited, but it actually does have some fairly good stories and the themes are pretty deep for a kid's cartoon.

faustina said...

I think Sam would have enjoyed this post. I'm sure the two of you would have had quite the discussion about it!