Interview With the Audience

As our blog is wrapping up, our son waves goodbye to all you readers who’ve been following along. I actually took this photo in June 2016, when we were watching Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, Land of the Lost, and Shazam!, for him to wave goodbye to my former employer, but I’ve always liked it and thought you might like to wave back.

Our kid is not really a very nostalgic type, as the occasional strangeness of his memory suggests, but I asked him to sit down with me for a moment and reflect on some things that he enjoyed, didn’t enjoy, and might surprise us a bit.

On movies, I asked whether he stands by his statement that Ghostbusters is one of his three favorite films, and whether he’d like to share what the other two are yet: “Yes, Ghostbusters is amazing. My other two favorite movies are It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

But wait a minute, you hadn’t seen Mad World yet when you told me that. What movie did it knock out of the top three? “The Doctor Who movie.”

Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD? You walked out on that! “No, I mean the other one, the one with the Eighth Doctor.”

On which Doctor might be his favorite: “Uhhhh, I’d have to break my brain to tell you that.”

On his favorite companion: “Probably Sarah Jane Smith, and Rose.”

On whether he prefers recurring villains or new ones: “I like it when older monsters come back!”

On whether he has a favorite or a least favorite ITC series: “I don’t know which one I liked best, but the one that I didn’t like was Danger Man.”

On what we’re going to rewatch in evening rotation over the next couple of months: “MacGyver and The Ghosts of Motley Hall. I was so upset when that one ended, because I loved that one.”

On which scarecrow is the best: “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh is not as good as Worzel Gummidge.”

On other TV series that he particularly enjoyed: “I loved The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. I really didn’t like The Feathered Serpent. I don’t remember Into the Labyrinth. I liked about 64% of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Thunderbirds and Thunderbirds are Go, yes, yes, a million times yes. I know that we watched Pippi Longstocking but I don’t remember much about it.”

I was telling him that if he’d like to see Pippi again, we’d have to track it down, because those came from the library when he interrup–: “SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW! YES!!! I LOVE THE SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW!”

We’re certainly hoping that they’ll announce another one soon. Any of these Disney films ring a bell for you? “I liked Tron and Mary Poppins Returns. I don’t really remember the original. I like Star Wars but not the Star Wars cash-ins.

What about The Black Hole? That was Disney’s Star Wars cash-in. “Oh yeah, that one I did like.”

Other things I showed him pictures of that he did not remember: Dr. Shrinker and Napoleon and Samantha

On Hayao Miyazaki: “I liked Spirited Away best, and I really like all the food. Also Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa.”

I’m glad you like Miyazaki, because we’re going to start watching Future Boy Conan Sunday night. “Coooool.”

We’ll be continuing to watch TV for many, many months to come. Tomorrow, I’ll have a few closing thoughts of my own.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)

Are you ready to spend fifty minutes checking your wristwatch? Then have I got a Halloween special for you! In 1976, the endlessly prissy Paul Lynde was a recurring guest on ABC’s Donny & Marie, when he wasn’t the center square on – is this right? – 828 episodes of Hollywood Squares. Apparently to give the Osmonds a week off, the production team taped a Halloween special with Lynde instead, with guest stars Florence Henderson, Tim Conway, and Roz Kelly, who had found an “I Didn’t Do It Kid” level of fleeting fame in the role of Pinky Tuscadero for three weeks on Happy Days and tried keeping it going here.

With musical guests Kiss, who made their national TV debut that October night, they made the least funny and most 1970s thing ever. Jokes, such as they are, are built around Baretta and The Legend of Billy Jack, at least when Lynde isn’t sneering about Kiss’s makeup and elevator shoes, because hey, moms in Peoria and Des Moines, these rock and roll stars are weird people. Within weeks, the horrifying rumor that Gene and the boys never took off their makeup had cemented. I have no idea why that was meant to be so frightening, but my folks were really bothered by it. Yours as well, I imagine.

We didn’t watch every minute of this monster. I asked to zoom through Peter Criss’s performance of “Beth,” because while I can smile through or ignore most of the Kiss catalog without incident, the only thing that song was good for was inspiring a funny Evan Dorkin comic strip about “the Kiss Navy.”

So why in creation did we watch this thing? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?

Billie Hayes plays Witchiepoo and Margaret Hamilton plays the Wicked Witch of the West. The writers gave them some of the worst dialogue you’ve ever heard. Good grief, who was responsible for this mess? Bruce Vilanch, you say? Oh, yeah, he’s credited at least in part for The Star Wars Holiday Special and all nine – all nineBrady Bunch Hours. Good Lord. And the man writes for the Academy Awards these days. There’s a career arc.

I enjoyed prepping our son for this more than revisiting it. I asked him last week whether Witchiepoo or the Wicked Witch was worse. He had settled on Elphaba (for that’s her name, damn your eyes) before I reminded him that Witchiepoo actually made him cry once. Earlier this evening, serendipity was on our side. We went by a Halloween Express to buy him a Hulk costume and there was a welcome mat that read “I’ll Get You, My Pretties.” I had fun with that.

He giggled a bit through this, because this is television for six year-olds, and there’s great comedy for that age bracket when you’ve got Billy Barty biting Paul Lynde in the leg and a Peterbilt crashing through the wall of a diner. He really enjoyed the other two of Kiss’s songs, specifying that he likes “hard rocking music.” But the look on his face when Witchiepoo turned up was priceless.

And honestly, I’d sit through just about anything to hear the lovely Witchiepoo cackle. Just about anything. I don’t believe she’s in any Pink Lady & Jeffs, but if this family’s ever not nice to me, I’ll make them watch those.

Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon

Assumption A: The quality of any piece of television, especially children’s television, is improved by the presence of a fire-breathing dimetrodon.

Example: Season three of Land of the Lost is, frankly, more than a bit awful until Torchy, the fire-breathing dimetrodon, shows up.

Unfortunately, no other examples are known to exist. The assumption may never be truly proven.

But can you just imagine?