Saturday, May 26, 2007

John M. Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #167: Bad TV You Loved as a Kid

Weekend Assignment #167: You watched some bad TV as a kid. Tell us your favorites. Now, this doesn't mean you realized at the time it was bad. Just now, in the fullness of time, you recognized that your viewing choices left something to be desired. For the purposes of this assignment, try to stick with shows that were aimed at kids, although if you can't think of any, prime time shows are okay as well.

Extra Credit: How much TV did you watch when you were a kid? A lot? A little?

Dear John,

Best heed the wife's words of wisdom and take out the trash.

Speaking of trash (heheheh), Sky King was the trash TV that I remember with that thrill of guilty pleasure, curled up in the big chair in the den on a Saturday morning, all cartooned out, waiting for parents to be functional enough to make breakfast (cereal bowl at my feet, lest you think we were neglected children). Of course, I was in love with Penny King and thrilled when she, too, got her pilot's license like her “dad” Sky.

According to, the Sky King TV show premiered September 16, 1951 on NBC and went on to a nice, four season run, airing it's last episode in March, 1959. As one commenter says on that site, “A man and his plane battle bad guys.” What more could you want? Just add a couple of kids (niece and nephew – Sky wasn't married), a ranch manager, a slightly ambivalent sheriff, cattle rustlers and other malcontents, and you have a formula for a thoroughly modern, post-war, western soap. Truly trashy!

Despite Gloria Winters' portrayal as Penny, the real heroine of the series was Songbird.

She was the King's principal airplane. I think I actually cried when they retired Songbird 1. She'd been crash-landed more times than
Carters has pills, but mechanic Bob Carey (played by Norman Ollestad) had always managed to patch her up and get her flying again. She was a member of the family. I didn't understand the intricacies of network television or leases on airplanes back then. Just because CBS had picked up the franchise from NBC after they'd canceled the show wasn't any reason to come back with two slick new airplanes – it just wasn't right! That was the eye-opener for me. I rarely watched after that... Although, it turns out the plane change occurred because the old wooden “bamboo bomber” had become unsafe to fly and was sold off during a change of sponsors.

I whiled away far too many hours in front of the “boob tube” hoping for a glimpse of the milky mammaries (I was of that generation deprived of the teet in favor of the more modern “bottle” - blech!). Probably 4 hours of a Saturday morning and a couple of hours either side of supper during the week when my mother was working outside of the home or during inclement weather. Far less in good weather and when she was at home – she had no love of the tube.

I do hope you limit Athena's television viewing to a dull roar. I know we did and I am proud of the way our kids turned out. As to what to do with Athena during the summer, take a little advice from the “been there – done that” folks: camp. Summer “Bible Camp” if it will get your mother (or mother-in-law, for that matter) off your back about raising a “little heathen”. Simply because she needs the socialization and playtime with other kids, she's smart enough to question authority and the BS that comes along with the proselytizing, she might as well learn at a very early age what assholes Christians can be, and it gets her out from underfoot part of the day so you can get some writing and other writerly business done. Just be sure to avoid the Baptists and other fundamentalists in all varieties or they'll be camped out on your front lawn forever. Our local Jewish Community Center had a great half-day camp both kids enjoyed a lot (as opposed to the mutiny that arose when exposed to a Baptist Bible School – that only lasted one day). The town YMCA and YWCA had great summer programs, too. Anything that allows Athena to play with others her age and gets her away from your evil influence for part of the day would be a big boost to all of you retaining your sanity through the summer.

As always, look after the womenfolk and behave. You ARE being watched.


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