Sunday, December 12, 2010


G'day, Mates!

Again, Kind Readers, I must beg your indulgence.  The regular broadcast of "You Can't Get There From Here" will be preempted this week so that we may bring to you the following special presentation...

I've railed before about the sad state of modern investigative journalism but the reaction to this recent spate of WikiLeaks by the media (or lack of reaction as the case may be) has really put a hornet in my toque.

Dontcha think it's kinda funny that all of the major media outlets are talking about how awful WikiLeaks is and how much of a demon Julian Assange is instead of actually talking about what WikiLeaks is supposedly revealing?

Honestly, how many people out there have actually seen this little bombshell...

No?  Hmmmm, what a shocker...

I remember how jarring it was the first time I witnessed this scene in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket:

Like the passenger in the helicopter, I almost threw up when I watched this.

So here we are, confronted by a real-life version and for some reason we aren't hearing about it or talking about it.  The sad thing is, if you hunt hard enough, there are other leaks that are just as despicable or galling, such as what's discussed in this report on Fox News of all things:

And here's another:

So I just want to put this question to you, Bright Readers.  If the information being released by WikiLeaks is such a subversive powder keg then why are the major media outlets more keen to talk about debating the ethics of releasing the information or examining the scruples of Julian Assange versus actually reporting the leaks themselves!

Now I'm not saying that Assange is some sort of paragon, but since we seem to have no investigative journalism or government transparency anymore I believe that what WikiLeaks is doing is critically important.  Essentially it's rubbing our collective noses in just how ignorant and resigned we've all become to what our elected officials and captains of industry are doing unmonitored behind closed doors.

Here's another recent news break that's barely getting coverage.  Remember the G20 event in Toronto back in June?  Do you remember how the mainstream media seized on that small group of anarchic yahoos and showed images incessantly every night of these clowns smashing the windows of a Starbucks ("GASP!") or burning police cars ("M'eh.")?  It was almost designed for the casual viewer to glance at this, tut-tut and declare: "Look at that pack of savages, they're a friggin' embarrassment!"      

What they didn't see was that the vast majority of the 10,000 or so peaceful protesters showed up because:
  • G20 countries are responsible for more than 85 per cent of global military spending and 95 per cent of global arms production.
  •  The G20 directs the efforts of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  These organizations give loans to poorer nations of the world with all sorts of interesting clauses attached, clauses that create exploitative inroads for mega-corporations, curtail funding on education and health care, soften up environmental guidelines and labor laws, export dirt cheap goods to the the richer nations of the world and subsequently undermine our own domestic industry.   Why do this?  Simply to have the globe's poorest nations subsidize the richest in a vicious circle of economic extortion. 
  • There's nothing even vaguely democratic about the G20 process.  At all.  The meetings are secret, our elected officials arbitrarily decide on everything behind closed doors and then they decide what to tell us about it.   
And frankly I find this scarier then all get out.

Even though there were tons of illegal arrests happening during the protests, we only heard any real dissenting voice last week when Ontario's ombudsmen released the following report: 

I'm sorry, but doesn't this terrify anyone else?

And this recent revelation just blows me away:

I can't believe the friggin' Liberal party rolled over and died on this issue.  Actually, that's not entirely true. Anyone who thinks that there's actually some sort of distinction between the major Canadian political parties nowadays is sadly misinformed.

I think it's hilarious that this time last year Steven "Malamute Eyes" Harper was playing hardball about the departure date of our troops, and then, all of a sudden, last month it suddenly becomes imperative for us to stay until 2014.  WTF!?

Hmmmmm, I wonder if it might have something to do with this...

Or this?

Or this?

Are there really still people out there who truly believe that we're in Afghanistan solely to bring democracy to an oppressed people, capture a kidney-deprived dude in a cave and/or protect our own borders from Islamic extremists who apparently want us all dead just because we have a Cinnabon in every mall?  Is that really what we have to believe in order to turn a blind, uninformed eye and let us sleep comfortably at night?  Well, frankly, I don't want our troops to be the fall guys for shady, Machiavellian economic and political chicanery anymore.  Enough is enough.   

Look, you don't have to be a correspondent for "60 Minutes" to see that there's a pretty obvious story here.  So, why the f^%$^ aren't we getting this perspective on the news every night and reading about it in the papers every morning?

Well, mainstream media might not be willing to acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but by golly, the independent, old-fashioned, shit-disturbing internet journalist of WikiLeaks and other sources sure do.

Which brings me to my final scary video:

Never forget, folks: "dissent is the highest form of patriotism".  Don't accept what you're told at face value.  Question, protest, investigate and stay vigilant...while we still can.


FAIL:   Will WikiLeaks prove to be the Reichstag fire of internet censorship?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

T.V. or not T.V.? - Part II - Sitcoms and Shenannigans

Wagwan, my brothas!

My early preference for T.V. wasn't just limited to sci-fi or animated fare.  No, I also loved action/drama type shows like Emergency!: (1972-1977)

My mom used to keep a childhood scrapbook for me and every year I'd write in what I wanted to be when I grew up.  It's because of Emergency! that "Paramedic" and "Doctor" was added to an ever-changing litany that changed every year. (and regrettably, still does!)

I have so many found memories of this show.  I loved the red emergency vehicles, the tackle boxes filled with meds and the ultra-cool "Biophone":

This bad-boy's on my Christmas list this year.

Although Emergency! was technically aimed at adults, I'm sure it's was still responsible for selling an ass-load of "Hot Wheels" fire engines and "Adventure People" rescue trucks:

And to make sure law enforcement was well-represented I also had a huge interest in CHiP's: (1977-1983)

Wow.  Sometimes it's strangely comforting to be reminded that Erik Estrada once had a career.   

Even as an seven year old kid, this next show held a certain inexplicable fascination for me.  It's a shame that it many ways it set the role of women back to the Dark Ages.   

Charlie's Angels (1976-1981)

Mmmmmm, Jaclyn Smith.  Er, sorry

Before David Hasselhoff held court over a parade of blond, bouncy, beach bimbos (and w-a-a-a-a-a-y before he developed a penchant for Formica-flavored fast food), he was totally pimp as Micheal Knight in Knight Rider(1982-1986)

Hey, what guy wouldn't want to drive around in a self-aware, indestructible bitchin' black car with a cylon eye, a boost button and a stuffy British personality like C-3P0?

Well, okay, maybe if you replaced the car's personality with that of Julie Benz, then it would be perfect...  

Between 1982 to 1987 if you had a problem, if no-one else would help, and if you could find them, maybe, just maybe, with a miracle, you might, if you were really, really lucky, be able to hire (if you were nice to them)... The A-Team:

Although for the life of me I have no idea why you would want to hire these clowns.  Collectively they had worst aim than Special Edition Greedo or the entire animated cast of G.I. Joe

And talk about the law of diminishing returns: as goofy as the show was during it's first season, it got progressively sloppy and moronic as time wore on.  I seem to remember a stunt during the fifth season which had the A-Team going over a ramp in a jeep, crashing and then tumbling over a few times.

The dummy used to represent Mr. T was white. 

And who could forget V? (1983)

This was indispensable viewing back in the day.  Originally inspired by It Can't Happen Here, the Sinclair Lewis novel warning of a hypothetical fascist takeover in the United States, Kenneth Johnson's gritty and contemporary first-draft script was rejected by the network because it was (*GASP!*) "too cerebral".

So, Johnson substituted real-life fascists for extraterrestrial, man-eating lizards to take advantage of the 80's sci-fi boom and the rest, as they say, is history.

I gotta tell ya, when Marc Singer's Mike Donovan sneaks into the alien ship in the first mini-series, gets into a scrap with a Visitor and his opponent's face falls off to reveal a giant iguana underneath, a fuse in my brain kinda burnt out.

V and it's follow-up mini-series served as a tremendous warning reminder of Nazi trappings.  The uniforms, symbolism, youth programs, information control, collaborators, propaganda broadcasts, and systemic persecutions were all hoisted up as symptoms of a sick society.
Regrettably original scribe Kenneth Johnson was alienated (no pun intended) from the project over a budget battles with the network when it came time to shoot the sequel miniseries V: The Final Battle (1984).  He had no input at all by the time V: The Series came along, and lemme tell ya, it shows.   Pee-yew!  The only good thing about the series was the presence of Michael Ironside.  He was totally bad-ass, yo.

I've given the re-make/re-imagining a whirl and I think it's brilliantly updated to reflect our times.  Instead of it being a dissertation of external fascism and race relations, the new incarnation of V has a lot of interesting things to say about our blind faith in authority figures who we assume have society's best interests in mind.  The show seems to be telling us that there are a lot of concealed, real-life reptiles out there growing nice and fat off of our ignorance and apathy.  Just watch the documentary Inside Job and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)

It's hard to believe that it took nearly twenty years for a new iteration of Star Trek to hit the small screen.  Although destined to succeed the first couple of seasons under Gene Roddenberry's direct guidance were pretty poopy.  In retrospect that inaugural season is rife with the sort of cheese that hobbled many of the worst episodes of the original series.

Nevertheless, by the early-Nineties, the show had hit it's stride and everybody on our floor in residence tuned in every week to watch the new episode.  It wasn't perceived as a geeky thing back then, everybody liked this show.  We couldn't wait until the following week and would often spend days discussing the minutia or implications of every new episode.

Having said that, if you re-watch it now, it could be argued that there were a lot more crap episodes then good, but the good stuff was really friggin' awesome.

Some people thought that it packed it in too soon.  Many thought that the writers had gotten a real handle on the characters and plot threads and it certainly shouldn't have segued into a series of mainly forgettable films.

But sometimes it's wise to shuffle off stage versus being dragged off.  Just ask Danny Williams.
Here's an early promotional clip hyping the premiere of the debut episode:

Now, it wasn't always so serious with me.  If I have any sense of humor at all (a point, I'm sure, which is still up for debate), it's due to these memorable shows.

Three's Company  (1977-1984)

Although most of the scenarios were completely moronic, the comedic timing of Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers, Norman Fell, Audra Lindley, Richard Kline, Don Knotts and the late, great John Ritter made this show greater than the sum of it's naughty parts.  I didn't really understand all of the sexual innuendo at age seven, but I loved the pratfalls and generally goofy behavior of supposed adults.

Threes Company Episode 1
Uploaded by Paulleahs. - See more comedy videos.

The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)

Although the skits could be uproariously funny in and of themselves, it was Tim Conway and Harvey Corman trying to bust each other up during the show's life tapings that resulted in maximum hilarity.

The first time I watched the following skit I nearly laughed myself into a hernia when Tim Conway tells the story about the wife he lost in Hawaii at the 5:50 mark:

"Good luck ham" = Win.   

And here's my favorite sitcom of all time: W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati (1978-1982)

Why did I love this show so much and continue to love it to this day?  Simply put, I don't think any sitcom before or since has been nearly this slick, sly and true to it's subject matter.  I hate sitcoms like Friends and Will and Grace that constantly batter the audience with one-liners, bòn móts and innuendo like we're all kids with attention deficit disorder.  With W.K.R.P. the humor came organically from the character interaction and story lines and often built up to a gut-busting crescendo.     

For example, the episode "The Painting" in which slimy sales manager Herb Tarlek purchases a work of art for all the wrong reasons and then spends the entire show trying alternately to unload it or buy it back again, is a hilarious morality tale that the Bard himself would have been proud of.

As a side note, I also patterned my entire wardrobe, personality and ethos in High School after the teachings of Johnny Fever.  Hey, it was a noble pursuit.  After all, he was a Doctor!  

A word for truth in advertising: although I posted a link below to the first season on DVD, the thing is pretty awful.  Since it would have cost a fortune to license the original music, the DVD was released without the original artist's tunes, removing the show's character, crippling it's realism and even making some scenes nonsensical.

Man, it doesn't make any sense to me to make licensing music so friggin' expensive.  If I were a musician, I'd be thrilled have one of my tunes included in a classic T.V. show DVD release.  It's free promotion, fer Chrissakes!    


Y'know, sad to say but there was a point in time in my life when I lived for Thursday night's "Must See T.V.".
It usually started with Family Ties: (1982-1989)

Why is my brain hardwired so that I can recite the names of the entire cast of Family Ties yet I can't even remember my online banking password?

In many ways Family Ties was a typical 80's sitcom, but it also had the cajones to tackle some serious issues.  Like when a certain future Academy Award winning actor made an appearance as Elyse's alcoholic brother Ned in a few episodes:

Cheers (1982-1993) was also great during it's heyday.

I can credit an episode of this show for my disproportionate knowledge regarding a certain former Eastern Bloc nation:

No slight to Woody Harrelson, but, man, I loved Coach.

Similarly I was there when both Selma Diamond and Florence Halop died within three seasons of each other on Night Court (1984 -1992).  Finally the producers of the show decided not to hedge their bets any longer and retained thirty-two-year-old Marsha Warfield as a replacement bailiff.  After all, having to acknowledge death in a sitcom not once but twice certainly put the brakes on the ole' yuk-train.

Here's the funky theme song intro:

John Larroquette's Dan Fielding was perhaps the most reprehensible character in an 80's sitcom, an unrepentant ripe bastard who's very presence was a refreshing change from most of the non-threatening, underwritten and saccharine automatons that populated 90% of the T.V. shows of the time.

Here's a bit of little-known Larroquette lore.  In addition to playing the Klingon Maltz in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock:

 John also provided the intro voice-over for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre:

One last Night Court/Star Trek crossover.  See if you recognize this morose mother-f#@$%^:

And who could forget The Cosby Show (1984-1992)?  In the early goings this had some genuine moments of wit and edge.   

Check the 7:45 mark of the Pilot Episode and you'll instantly be reminded of why this show was so great:

Y'know, when I was a teenager I wasn't above procuring a giant bag of potato chips ( "Look out, they're ruffled!"), a keg of dip and a two-liter of Coke and nestling into a recliner to watch Much Music's fifth or sixth broadcast of Woodstock.  I loved the history captured here in video amber: The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix are all preserved in suspended animation at the height of their powers.

Oh, and the occasional appearance of naked, mud-covered hippy chicks didn't hurt the viewing experience either.  

And then there was this Cosby-killer and cultural smart-bomb The Simpsons (1989-present).  

During the first eight seasons or so, The Simpsons was a hilarious show that just to happened to be animated. It's also odd to describe an animated show as well directed, but it was.  At first it employed an amazing  repertoire of visual nods to other shows and films and seemed to avoid broad and obvious jokes.  It's been on for so long now that it's moved away from character-driven plots and has degenerated into a wacky cartoon sitcom version of itself. 

It isn't the worst thing on T.V., but man, do I miss the subversive and cock-eyed sense of humor that characterized those earlier years.   

It also amazes me how much of a whipping post The Simpsons was for religious and parental watchdog group that thought it was mental nitroglycerin for kids.  It's because of this show's groundbreaking efforts that lesser programs like Family Guy (which is ten times worse for content) basically gets a free controversy pass nowadays. 

By the time I hit university, my floormates often used me as a walking, talking T.V. Guide.

"So, Dave, what's good on Tuesday nights?"

"Hmmmm, in think ABC is your best bet tonight.  How early you start is gonna depend on how much you can tolerate Tony Danza and how hot you think Alyssa Milano is.  You've got Who's the Boss at eight, The Wonder Years at eight-thirty and then Roseanne at nine.  But for the love of god, get the f%$#^ out of there after that unless you're a huge fan of Coach and eeeeesssh, thirtysomething."

Yeah, you could say I watched a lot of T.V.

But something happened to me when I was about twenty-five.  After encountering some more sophisticated  forms of entertainment (good books, independent films) the lure of the boob tube wore off for me.  I looked back on some of the dreck I'd watched and lamented on how I could have better spent that time doing more productive things.

So, for many years I wrote off network television as a giant waste of time.

But, as a famous man once said...

Emergency - Season One CHiPs - The Complete First SeasonCharlie's Angels - The Complete First SeasonKnight Rider - Season OneThe A-Team: Season OneV: The Complete SeriesStar Trek The Next Generation - The Complete First SeasonThe Carol Burnett Show - Show StoppersWKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First SeasonFamily Ties - The Complete First SeasonCheers: The Complete First SeasonNight Court: The Complete First SeasonThe Cosby Show - Season 1Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music (40th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]The Simpsons - The Complete First Season


FAIL: This was nearly as bad as Small Wonder.  That theme song alone is enough to send a body into a diabetic coma...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

T.V. or not T.V.? - Part I - My Poor Defenseless Brain


Y'know, looking back I've watched a godawful amount of television as a kid.

Even before Star Wars had it's Armageddon-like impact on my childhood I was still drawn to imaginative T.V. shows.  As such I lived on a steady diet of programs like...

Sesame Street (1969-now)

I've been watching this show for so long I remember when Oscar the Grouch was orange, Hooper's store was staffed by it's namesake, Bert and Ernie weren't dodging Brokeback Mountain rumors and certainly waaaaaay before Luis and Maria started knockin' boots.

Hey, who doesn't love Oscar's bitchiness, Super Grover's can-do attitude, and the Count's clear level of job satisfaction?  

The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

Just as Farrah Fawcett represented the pinnacle of late 70's female beauty, her husband at the time Lee Majors embodied the template of male perfection.  Square-jawed, cock-eyed and cut like a bag of milk, Majors also cultivated a veritable black forest of chest hair which was displayed as often as the scripts would allow.

How could a kid not like a show about a wise-ass bionic dude with super-strength who was constantly getting into slow-motion Pier Six brawls with Sasquatch?  Money...

Space: 1999 (1975-1977)

In the mind-bogglingly distant future of 1999, Moon Base Alpha gets blown out of Earth's orbit and goes spinning into space where the crew encounters all sorts of far-out threats Star Trek style.  Notwithstanding the wonky science, this show had impeccable special effects, amazing sets and stellar model work that, in some ways, trumped Star Wars which followed two years later.

I remember some of the stories being kinda scary for a five year old kid, what with all the weird aliens, people transforming into bizarre creatures, or the base getting swamped with killer foam (presumably after someone put too much Space Woolite in a Space Washing Machine and left the Space Lid up, I guess).

When watched today, however, a lot of the episodes alternately cheesy and/or pretty pedestrian.  Plus the cast wouldn't forfeit the WORST POLYESTER UNIFORMS IN A SCI-FI PROJECT AWARD until five years later when Star Trek: The Motion Picture's "Starfleet Jammies" came down the pike.

Here's an interesting tidbit to ponder, though.  When the show started in 1975, the series three leads (Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, and Barry Morse) were 47, 44, and 57 respectively.  Can you imagine a sci-fi series starting on T.V. nowadays with a similar cast age demographic?   Not bloody likely...

The Muppet Show (1976-1981) 

As a Sesame Street alumni I was certainly predisposed to this, certainly one of the high-water marks of Jim Henson's amazing career.

If not for The Muppet Show my generation would be completely devoid of culture.  To drive this point home, here's an alphabetical list of the show's guest stars, most of whom we would never have been exposed to if they hadn't tripped the light fantastic on Kermit the Frog's stage: 

C'mon, do you really think that people of my generation would have had a chance to hear Ethel Merman sing "There's No Business Like Show Business", see Rudolf Nureyev dance "Swine Lake" (?), and witness Señor Wences perform his classic characters Johnny and Pedro if Jim Henson didn't think it was important for us to see this?

The man was a friggin' genius and I was pretty beat up for about a week after he died prematurely at age 53.  

The Man From Atlantis (1977-1978)

A.K.A. "Bobby Ewing Sure Do Swim Funny".   Like Space: 1999, this was also kind of intense for a little kid to watch at times.  There was one really hairy episode I remember when the MFA was kept out of water for too long and started to get all pink and wrinkly like an overdue baby with a jerry curl.  

Battlestar Galactica (1978-1980)

As a kid I really didn't care if this was a thinly-veiled Star Wars knock off.  I loved the ships, sets, costumes, Ovions and Cylons.  Oh, and Maren Jensen made me feel funny in my pants, like when I used to climb the rope in gym class. 

Aaaaaand, the less said about the dialogue and stories when viewed though adult eyes, the better.   

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978-1979)

Ahhh, the Seventies.  We didn't need CGI back then!  If someone wanted to make a superhero show, we just put some poor bastard in a Halloween rental costume and dragged him up the face of the Empire State Building on a rope.

Speaking of shows where the cast skews old, Peter Parker here is supposed to be a university student but he looks old enough to be getting regular prostate exams.

This thing was pretty shabby.  It didn't have much of a budget, so instead of Spidey battling his usual Rogues Gallery of villains like Sandman, Electro and the Green Goblin he'd often be seen tangling with new age hypnotists (?), ghosts (??), and the Chinese Government (???).  

Sam Raimi probably sat his cast and crew down before filming the first Spider-Man feature and said "Okay, this is what we won't be doing. Wellllll, at least not until the third film."

Buck Rogers in the 25'th Century (1979-1981)

Remake of the Golden Age sci-fi pulp action hero from the producers of Battlestar Galactica.

Gil Gerrard plays Captain William "Buck" Rogers, an astronaut from 1987 who, after being propelled five-hundred years into the future, battles evil Draconians, confounds his co-stars with anachronistic dialogue and turns every female within a fifty foot radius into an unspayed cat.

Buck was pimp, yo.  
Let me tell ya, folks, you haven't lived until you've watched Gil Gerrard share a scene with the robotic Dr. Theopolis, who looks like a cross between a Martha Stewart Living © clock, a Lite-Brite set and a pie plate.

Young male viewers numbed by the inane plots, recycled special effects, forced sci-fi trappings and cringe-inducing dialogue could at least find solace every time Erin Gray's Wilma Deering was on screen.  Erin still ranks towards the top of the Hottest Sci-Fi Goddesses of All Time list.

Ahhh, those were the days when women on television had bodies like women and not twelve year old boys.

And I'll never forget the super-obscure Cliffhangers! (1979), which only lasted ten episodes.

It attempted to revitalize the cliffhanger serials which I'm sure most television producers at the time were probably weaned on as kids.  It featured three separate twenty-minute segments.  The first was usually "Stop Susan Williams" featuring hottie-of-the moment Susan Anton as the title character.  She played an investigative journalist trying to unravel the mystery of her brother's murder while dark forces attempted an afterlife family reunion every week in a myriad of creative and sadistic ways.

The second segment was called "The Secret Empire".  It was kind of an update of  "The Phantom Empire", the old Gene Autry serial where cowboys discover an ancient alien civilization dwelling underneath the earth (as cowboys are want to do, I guess, between all the fightin', fuedin' and moseyin').

But my favorite part of the show by far was called "The Curse of Dracula", a modern retelling of the vampire yarn which saw the good Count posing as an Eastern European History professor (?), clashing with a relative of Van Helsing and attempting to enthrall the beautiful Mary.  It was one of my earliest exposures to the horror genre and sort of kicked-started my interest in being periodically scared shitless.

Of course, each segment would result in the main characters in terrible jeopardy, forcing audiences to tune in next week to see what happened.  Although it didn't catch on with the mainstream, my half-baked brain lapped it up.  And, let me tell ya, folks, back then a week felt like a friggin' eternity!

Here's a bit more info on it:

Then there's this cultural nadir that could only have been cooked up in the fevered brains of coked-out 70's television execs: a live action, prime-time DC superhero television variety show called Legends of the Superheroes (1979).  This shit has to be seen to be believed:

Hey, who needs the new Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern movie when you can just have some masked dude in spandex being roasted by a character called Ghettoman?  Don't believe me, then look henceforth into this mouth of madness... 

Saturday morning fare was also consumed voraciously. Like the infinitely superior NON-animated Superfriends (1973-1977):

Please note that I'm endorsing the pre-Wonder Twins iteration of the program.  Too bad there wasn't a version without that sea-horse-riding, cow-licked, useless tit/fifth wheel Aquaman.

"Hey, Aquaman!  Some dude just jumped out of that twelve story building!  Maybe you should put down that hot dog and rescue them!"

"Well, um, I mostly just talk to fish n' stuff." 
And here's my first (and subsequently very regrettable exposure) to Asian culture via Hong Kong Phooey (1974-1976)

Eeeeeee-yow, I'm sorry but that's just bad.  

Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (1981-1986)

Despite shoehorning two castoff X-Men in with the traditionally lone-wolf Spider-Man and never bothering to explain how Peter Parker could possibly afford to have a secret transforming science lab installed in his apartment on his meager freelance photographer salary, this was a fun show that really improved on it's predecessors.   

Star Blazers (1979):

OMG, I loved this show!  Why?  Three words, sparky: WAVE MOTION GUN.  Man, I wish I had one of those suckers strapped to the front of my Corolla sometimes... 

Land of the Lost (1974-1977):

Despite how rubbery the dinosaur puppets looked and how friggin' annoying Holly could be, this gave me nightmares because of the god-damned Sleestaks.

If you don't know what a Sleestak is, here you go:

Here's a hint, the sleestak is the thing on the left.

Here's the corn-pone intro complete with it's pickin' and/or grinnin' theme song:

Godzilla: (1978-1981) 

I had a huge Godzilla fetish as a kid and since I couldn't see any of his movies, this cartoon had to suffice.  In this one, the crew of the exploration ship Calico use a signaling device to call the "Big G" to their defense whenever threatened by monsters during their scientific travels. 

Stupid, f#@$%^' Godzooky.  Jesus, he's like the Scrappy-Doo of the giant monster set...

Speaking of, here's Scooby-Doo: (1969-1984)

I just love how subversive the old shows were.  You just know that Shag and Scoob were constantly duckin' just off-screen to spark up a big fatty as soon as Fred, Wilma and Daphne's collective backs were turned.  What else would explain the duo's methadone-style craving for Scooby snacks if they weren't high as f$#@% and had the munchies all the time?  

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (1962-1973, 1975-2000)

Wow, talk about subversive, just have a look a this: cross-dressing, a blurring of gender roles, backhanded racism and Tarantino-esque bursts of extreme violence.  Politically incorrect?  Probably.  Funny as all get out?  Definitely.      

Battle of the Planets (1978-1985):

A team of superpowered teenagers fly all around the galaxy in a cool vehicle that breaks up into a bunch of smaller cool vehicles.  Ripped off shamelessly by a myriad of lesser shows years later.

"Hey, Voltron, can you burst into flames, become invulnerable and gain the power to destroy just about anything like the Fiery Phoenix?  No?  Okay, then you suck..."

The Smurfs (1981-1990):

I loved this show, but always hated how the one Smurf with glasses was such an insufferable dick.  Sometimes I'd catch myself as a kid screaming at the T.V.: "Brainy, what the eff, dawg?  Why you gotta be frontin' like dat?  You makin' all us bespectacled mother-f$#@%^& look like bitches, yo!"

Okay, I didn't say it exactly like that, but the mental picture it conjures up is pretty funny, huh?

You gotta like any show which allowed a generation of stand-up comedians to say things like "Last night I smurfed her until she told me to smurf all over her smurfing smurfs" and audience members my age know just how dirty that was.

The original Spider-Man cartoon (1967-1970):

Besides the groovy theme song, the first season of this show was bright and well-animated with some solid voice talent  But when the original animation studio went belly-up, the show was produced with the Skid Row sensibilities of Ralph "Sure I Can Do That For Forty Cents" Bakshi, who's adaptation of Lord of the Rings was also a turgid and joyless affair.   The show became increasingly grim, dark and inexplicably psychedelic, often recycling footage from the equally murky-looking Rocket Robin Hood.   

Some of the episodes produced in this era (like "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension", "Swing City" and "Phantom From The Depths of Time") seem barely appropriate for kids since they're obviously the product of massive chemical consumption.  Viewed now they look like Spider-Man cartoons produced in some former Eastern Bloc nation that doesn't exist anymore.  Seek them out if you want a wall-crawlin' walk on the wild side, just stay away from the brown acid before you start watching or you might try and claw your own face off.

Here's the famous theme song intro: 

Dungeons & Dragons (1983)

I was heavily into the game at the time and thought this show was the shiznit for depicting some of the monster's I'd fought in the game and incorporating the character classes featured in "new" Unearthed Arcana manual (like the barbarian, acrobat and cavalier).  Some of the stories were also pretty good, especially "The Dragon's Graveyard", "Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn" and "City on the Edge of Midnight".  Often we'd, borrow, elements from the shows to incorporate in our own in-game adventures.

There were some demerits that made the show a bit silly.  The Reagan-era hysteria that permeated all cartoons at the time dictated that characters could never strike one another with fists or weapons so there was a lot of "indirect damage", with bad guys falling into pits when one of the good guys breaks the wooden bridge they're walking across or burying the villain under some falling rocks or some other slap-happy shit.  It wasn't until 1992 when the watershed Batman animated series (the greatest television cartoon of all time, IMHO) came along and mercifully blew that taboo out of the water.   

Could you imagine a Batman cartoon where Batman couldn't actually beat ass?  It would have sucked like a Dyson...

And, naturally, all shows of that era seemed to have some annoying marketable character that existed just to hit some sort of imaginary demographic hot button.  Enter Uni, an orphaned baby unicorn who's incessant bleating drove viewers into fits of homicidal mania.  Coupled with young Bobby's tireless whinging, there were some real moments of irritation here.

Still, this is one of my all-time favs and the beautifully produced DVD boxed from a few years back is one of the crown jewels of my collection. 

Robotech: (1985)

Finally producers realized that North American kids will follow an animated show with a consistent storyline, especially if it's a good one.  The Macross Saga pulled Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes and Max Sterling through the wringer as members of the Robotech Defense Force as they sought to defend earth from invasion at the hands of the evil alien Zendraedi Empire.

The second series (The Robotech Masters) featuring Dana Sterling wasn't quite as good but the storyline  was still more advanced then Transformers, which I'd kind of outgrown by then.  Regrettably, the third series was never broadcast to completion because, by that time, crap like He-Man had created a new economic model for animation: television cartoons now had to be driven by toy sales. 

Yeah, and we all know what great bedfellows commerce and art are, huh?      

But, I have to admit, as great as some of this stuff was, a lot of it was total dreck.  Look, I know the human brain is capable of tremendous recuperative powers, especially at a young age, but there's no way you can recover from some of this stuff.

It's a wonder all my shoes aren't tied with velcro.  

Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974)Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]The Muppet Show - Season One (Special Edition)Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Epic SeriesBuck Rogers In the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

Super Friends!: Season One, Vol. OneHong Kong Phooey - The Complete SeriesStar Blazers - The Quest for Iscandar - Series 1, Part I (Episodes 1-5)Land of the Lost: The Complete SeriesScooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second SeasonsLooney Tunes - Golden CollectionThe Smurfs - Season One, Vol. OneSpider-Man - The '67 Collection (6 Volume Animated Set)Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated SeriesRobotech - Protoculture Collection

FAIL:  To prove my point, see if you can get through this 32 second clip with all of your brain cells intact: