Monday, April 22, 2013

Malcontented Moose's Top 10 Shows I Watched as a Kid.

Article by Malcontented Moose

So, my idea of putting off a real review with my previous top ten has not helped in actually being able to write a decent review on a single topic. Instead I watched some television, baked some cookies, stared at my wall and generally avoided sitting in front of my computer actually writing. I was getting nowhere. So…
Let’s do another top ten! This can only end well!

Standard disclaimer applies.


I would like to preface this and all my other options on this list by saying when I was growing up I lived very, very far away from many, many things. This included a decent television signal and as such when I was small we only had three TV channels, those being SBS, BBC/ABC and Northern Rivers. I didn’t begrudge this, as I knew no better; however it is I think something which may help explain why some things do not appear on this list. I probably never saw them.

Anyway, back to Danger Mouse. Oh was this show just fabulous to mine young eyes. Parodying a large portion of Brit spy television programming and popular culture the eponymous Danger Mouse and his Watson-eske sidekick Penfold would zoom throughout London solving crime and averting world catastrophe. With a stirring opening theme song and a well plotted sequence of events easily followed by a young attention span, Danger Mouse was a great little cartoon that used what limited budget it had to great comedic effect. It has since been released on DVD so I certainly know what my next frivolous purchase will be!


“BERK! FEED ME!” I don’t think I have met anyone who doesn’t know what The Trapdoor is. An excellent little between shows filler programme all done in Claymation, The Trapdoor was based around three main characters – namely Berk, Boni and Grutt – who lived below stairs in a castle owned by The Thing Upstairs. Revolving around the unholy monsters that periodically clawed their way up through the trap door, each episode showcased Berks’ desperate attempts to banish the monsters and get his Master fed on time. The animation in the show paired well with the character asides, being very well shot, while also creating an excellent balance between the comedy of the situations Berk would usually find himself in and the gothic horror components of the overall premise. Plus, EVERYONE can sing that theme tune….


During my younger years there was a huge increase in the amount of Anime being imported from Japan. Things like Astro Boy, Akira and Battle of the Planets were becoming popular and as such a significant part of the cartoon market began to shift towards Japan. What I know now is that the Samurai Pizza Cats scripts’ were either missing or so poorly translated that completely new dialogue was written for the show when it was licenced for the western market. What I knew then, however, was that this show was freaking hilarious with an exceptional mix of pop culture references and funny dialogue. The feel of the show was very tongue in cheek and self-aware and I can remember pledging the oath at the end of every episode with both a true fervour and sardonic smile, which is a little weird for an 8 year old. The animation is what you would expect looking back at it now, with repetitively used scenes and the always important ‘magical transformation sequence’ in nearly every episode but these are the things that really made this show for me as a kid and I still sit down every now and again to watch it now.


Another exceptionally tongue-in-cheek cartoon for this list. Roger Ramjet was originally aired in 1965 but was played on repeat ad-infinitum throughout my childhood. Centring on the antics of Roger Ramjet and his eagle scouts as they combat the forces of evil trying to bring down the United States, the programme managed to convey both a love of home and country as well as a keenly ironic view of said diehard idealism. In the same vein as other inept leader cartoon comedies, Roger is usually helped out of sticky situations via his kid-like sidekicks the Eagle Squadron, or via the use of his Proton Energy Pill. Nothing better than settling in for some cartoon violence right before The Trapdoor used to come on!


Now, the reason this is the Muppet Babies instead of The Muppet Show is because I actually never saw The Muppet Show during my childhood. But I loved the Muppet movies and I adored the Muppet Babies. Originating from a short sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, the Muppet Babies cartoon was an interesting blend of true 2D cell shaded animation cut with old stock footage photographs and videos and often more recent pop culture films (such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones). This gave the simple storylines of the show a more varied feel as each imagination sequence the babies embarked upon became more immediate to both the characters and the viewer. That is until the immersion was broken by the appearance of Nanny, checking up on the babies. The simple stories were fun to follow and told through the eyes of the Muppets were always interesting to watch again and again.


For the longest time I couldn’t find anyone who remembered this amazing cartoon. I’m glad the internet is now a thing so I can realise I’m not alone and also THEY RELEASED NEW EPISODES! Ehem. Mysterious Cities of Gold was a French/Japanese co-production about a young boy, Estaban, who travelled to Peru during the Spanish conquest to discover the “cities of gold”. Along the way he is joined by two friends – Zia, an Incan girl and Tao, a boy of uncertain history – who help Estaban while trying to hinder Mendoza from discovering El Dorado – the city of gold. This was a great cartoon as it was sneakily educational and is probably the originating cause for my obsessive love of Incan and Aztec history. The relationship between the main characters is well developed and interesting in that Mendoza is portrayed as having both an over-arching desire for nothing but gold while also holding conflicting feelings towards the main protagonists. I have yet to see the newly released series but hold high hopes it will live up to the excellence of the original.


As if anyone missed this one as a kid! Captain Planet, the first avatar (don’t shoot me!) a hero built out of the elements and come forth to save us from ourselves. What’s not to like? The good guys were ok; the bad guys were amazing and…wait…hey! Did you know Tim Curry voiced in this? And oh look! Whoopi Goldberg! Also Jeff Goldblum, Martin Sheen, Mark Hamill….wait Meg Ryan? STING? Really, Sting? Oh man, MALCOLM MCDOWELL. Hang on; I have to go find a box set. Be right back, you guys.


The Sooty Show was another programme I watched on heavy repeat due to the aforementioned lack of television channels available to me as a youngster. This is something I will NEVER regret as The Sooty Show is a beautiful, simple programme that I still love to watch today. Starring the eponymous Sooty – a yellow bear puppet who cannot speak – the show was originally a sketch format with himself, Sweep (a dog who speaks using squeak noises) and Harry, the only human. Later, the rights to the show were bought by Harry’s son Matthew who then continued as the shows human host, turning the programme into a more sitcom based scenario set in a rural house and adding an additional character – Sue, a female panda who could speak. The plot lines are simple and young in nature, often being about getting some flowers for Matthew or cleaning up the house, but I feel this lends itself well to a timeless quality the show seems to have. Indeed the first episodes were broadcast in 1955 and the finale in 1992, a testament to the longevity and simple pleasure of the concept.


I’m fairly sure a number of people will be quite shocked to discover that instead of Monty Python’s Flying Circus being on this list I have The Goodies. In all honesty, The Goodies are part of the reason I love Monty Python due to the actors – Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie – coming from the same bubbling comedy pot (Cambridge, of all places) and also due to the fact that I first grew up on the Python movies, where as I was watching The Goodies television show right off the bat. Less sketch comedy than Flying Circus, The Goodies comedy was much more situational than sketch and I find holds up exceptionally well on repeated viewings. Absurd as their plot lines often were, The Goodies always managed to find the humour in even the most mundane of settings; playing upon the inherent silliness of traditions and assigned gender roles, subverting and subtly ridiculing them. Even as a child I found this fascinating as well as hilarious and as I march on through time their subtle brand of humour continues to grow in my esteem. 


Another Goodies project! Ok, ok, originally a comic strip created by John Geering but then turned into a television show using the talents of The Goodies, so there. Another classic from the ABC of my childhood, watched in tandem with Roger Ramjet and The Trapdoor, Bananaman glibly satirises the silver age of comic book superheroes. Based around a young boy, in the comics Eric Wimp but here renamed to Eric Twinge, who upon eating a banana transforms into the adult hero Bananaman. He fights crime with his trusty side kick; Crow – an actual crow – continuously defeating the likes of General Grievous, Doctor Doom and Appleman, an arch nemesis who is rotten to the core. Oh yes, this is that kind of show. Full of clever puns and subtle satire, The Goodies left their mark on Bananaman and a place in my heart.

Yay! Another odd numbered non sequential Top Ten down! Now, I must away to buy all the box sets! *swoops off into the Chromacolour night*

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