Review of: Retro TV Shows (Part One)
Scooby-Doo: Let’s put aside the ha-ha Scooby and Shaggy are getting stoned and Fred wants to have sex with Daphne jokes and concentrate instead on the simple fact that this show sucked. The same thing happened every week! Lost spooky mansion/clearly bad guy farmer/split up/trap goes hilariously wrong/unmask bad guy who’s not really a ghost after all. Come on! How about mixing it up a little? A second plot, maybe? Seriously, even “The Smurfs” didn’t pull this kind of bullshit!
However, I do like the theme song of this show. As an added bonus, the musical keynote, “Scooby Doo: Where Are You?” neatly establishes an existential crisis at the heart of the show — or, at the very least, a cris du coeur — which the resounding refrain of “‘Rover Rhere!” neatly solves. Or, um, whatever.
Also, I do like the episodes where Scoob and the gang are hanging out not with Batman and Robin or the Harlem Globetrotters, but with some completely obscure mid-70s television star: “Hey, check this out, gang! …Holy cow, it’s… Phyllis Diller!/ Conway Twitty!/ Rip Torn!” Grade: C-minus
Three’s Company: I like two things about this show: One, that it was my favorite show when I was five. Two, that I clearly understood not a single thing that was happening on this show. I watch it now, and I’m like: Holy shit! Everyone’s having threesomes! The Ropers are swingers! Larry is having anal sex! But at the time, I was like, “It’s funny when Jack makes a pie and then Chrissy accidentally eats the pie.” Grade: A
What’s Happening!!: Not to be confused with “What’s Happening Now?” — which was a clearly inferior spin-off. As with “Three’s Company,” I must have watched approximately 5,000 episodes of this show, with the key difference that with this show, I can’t recall a single goddamn thing that happened. This was the one with “Rerun,” right? He… wore a red beanie, am I right? And they were, like… black people who… did stuff? Clearly, what’s happening is that I’m suffering from early long-term memory loss as a result of oncoming middle age. That’s what’s happening, my friends. Heh. Grade: D
Hogan’s Heroes: Nazis! So funny! Did I mention that I’m Jewish? Considering that this show not only spoofed the Third Reich, World War II, and National Socialism, but also featured a star (Bob Crane), who later on was murdered after it was revealed that he was a compulsive voyeuristic sex-addict, what’s really puzzling to me is how you could come up with a sitcom that’s any more offensive than this one. Maybe if you added some cannibals? Or some gang rape? …Some Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, mayhaps? Grade: F
The Jeffersons: I feel like I can remember an episode of this where George punches Weezey in the head, but considering that I can barely recall a single character on “What’s Happening!!” perhaps I am not to be trusted… Still, spousal abuse. That’s just not funny, even with a laugh track, and even if it didn’t really happen… But hey! Remember the neighbor? The one with the mustache and a pipe? He was a riot, am I right? Grade: Blank
The Smurfs: Still better than “Scooby-Doo”! As you may recall, the reason that Gargamel wanted to capture the Smurfs was because they represented the secret ingredient that would magically transform lead into gold. Question: wouldn’t this make the Smurfs equally as valuable as gold, or at least, in an open market, proportionally valuable? Why even bother transforming them at all? In fact, hold on a second. I have to make a call to my broker…
“Jimmy? Jimmy, it’s Oliver. I need you to do something for me right now. Take all my money — listen to me now, Jimmy — I want you to take all my money out of Steel and put into Smurfs. Yah, you heard me. Good… Good… Okay. Smurfy. Done.” There now. All finished. Now… where was I? Grade: B-plus
Duck Tales: This is a show that I refuse to make fun of. Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the word! Huey, Dewey, and Louie! Webby! Duckworth! The Beagle Boys! I watched this show well past any reasonable period of teenagerhood, and I refuse to feel lame about it for a second. ”Duck Tales” rocks! Who wouldn’t want to search for buried treasure every week with your rich uncle who owns three cubic acres of money? Plus, I can quote the entire theme song from memory:Life is like a hurri-cane Here in Duck-burg! Racecars, lasers, aero-planes! It’s a Duck-Blur!
…D-d-d-danger lurks behind you! There’s a stranger out to find you! What you do is grab onto some Ducktails! Whoo-hoo!
Whoo-hoo indeed, my friends. …Whoo-hoo indeed. Grade: A-plus, natch
Sesame Street: Of course I’m going to give an A-plus to Sesame Street… because I’m not some kind of insane soulless monster. (Note: ”The Electric Company” would also get an A-plus, if I could remember anything funny to say about it. I’m not so sure about “Zoom!”) So much of what I know about life comes from Sesame Street. For example: Rubber ducky, he’s the one. So true! And “C is for Cookie; and that’s good enough for me.” And it really is. I pretty much begin and end right there.
Plus, I don’t even have some insane Elmo-hating problem the way most people seem to. Seriously, “what up” with all the Elmo-hatin’, people? Okay, so he giggles a lot. Is that really a bad thing? I’ll let you in on a little secret: Sesame Street wasn’t exactly a dark ‘no-holds-barred’ look at the seedy underbelly of the world before Elmo came around. …So maybe just learn to deal. It is, however, a crime that the Snuffalupagus is now visible to everyone, and I really don’t want to talk about it.
However, this show often gave me a weird sense of depression. Maybe because it was too good. I would start to get the blues just by thinking about the fact that the “Letter and Number of the Day” were about to come on, and that the show would be over soon. Also, the theme song depressed me too. ”Sunny day, chasin’ the clouds away” …I hear these words being sung, and suddenly, as a kid, I feel sad. Why is that? …Welllll, to look at things in a Mallarméian sense — (“I write the word ‘flower,’ and instantly one comes to me that is absent from all the world’s gardens“) — the fact that the “Sesame Street” kids are enjoying a perfectly sunny, cloudless day …and the fact that I’m now imagining them doing this, means that now, by definition, the day I’m that having can be neither as sunny or as cloudless as it once was, or as the “sunny day” of my imagination can ever be. So, um, there’s that. Whoa. Grade: A-plus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Which came on PBS at midnight, which was — at least hypothetically — far past my actual bedtime when I was kid. I imagine I’ll get actual hate mail for saying this, but I just have a hard time grooving on “Monty Python.” Just never could get into it. In fact, I kind of hate it. Oh, look! They’re speaking in English accents! They’re using the word “Bloody”! They’re dressing up in women’s clothing! Weird stuff is happening! Ah ha ha ha! Whoo. Oh my. …No, but these things are not actually funny in any way. …Could somebody shoot me in the stomach, please? There. That’s better.
And as for people who have actually memorized entire Monty Python sketches… I have an actual restraining order that says you’re not allowed anywhere fucking near me. So get away! Get! Go on… shoo! Grade: D
 Do you remember the episode where there was some disease in Smurf Village, and to transmit it, the Smurfs would bite each other on the ass? And then once they were inflected with the disease, the Smurfs would turn purple and angry, and would hop around, shouting, “GNASH! GNASH!” …Well. That was all a metaphor for the AIDS crisis.
Also, and not many people remember this, but originally, the Smurfs were all guys. “Smurfette” was created by Gargamel as an evil creature whose goal was to tempt the Smurfs and to destroy them. Thus, in many ways, the arrival of Smurfette in Smurf Village precisely reenacts the Adamic Fall of Man and Expulsion from Paradise, as it originally occurs in the Book of Genesis. Some PhD student at, say, Cornell University should really write a 300 page dissertation about this.
 Okay, here’s the actual quote, without being messed up by me: “I say: a flower! And, out of the oblivion where my voice casts every contour, insofar as it is something other than the known bloom, there arises, musically, the very idea in its mellowness; in other words, what is absent from every bouquet.” —Stephen Mallarmé, 1897.
 No, but seriously. Am I the only person who feels this way? No? It’s only me then? Just… me?
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