‘Memory Lane: “The Mickey Mouse Club”‘ (2019)

Great balls o’fire! This is indescribably awful! It sounds like a dirge. I can’t bear to stay for the whole two minutes of it.

“Unknowable” had a truly horrible thought: What if this show were made by Disney today, instead of Disney as it was in 1955? Ai-ya! Run screaming to the sidewalk!

What is the meaning of The Scream? - BBC Culture

Memory Lane: ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’

Hey, it was bad enough with all that singing and dancing, and Moochie and his pals ALWAYS winning the national championship… and yet I watched it, and so did all my peers. Why did I watch it? I only wanted to see the cartoons.

It makes me suspect that television hypnotizes people.

Memory Lane: ‘Cheyenne’

Wow! Warner Bros.’ “adult Westerns”–what a splash they made when they came out in the 1950s. Do you remember any of them? (They all had cool theme songs.)

The one I remember best was Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker, maybe because it had such a long run (1955-62, with over 100 episodes). Cheyenne Bodie wandered around the Old West, looking for adventures. He found one every week. And he was always on the side of truth and justice. That’s how old this is.

Ah! Maverick. Sugarfoot. Rawhide. Lawman. Bronco. Laramie. And of course Wagon Train. Those were shows that you could sink your teeth into. If you didn’t like Westerns, I’m afraid you were rather stuck. But it wasn’t all shoot-outs and cattle-rustling. The best scripts transcended the genre.

As for TV in the 2020s–well, I don’t know, I haven’t watched any.

Memory Lane: Sgt. Bilko

If you were born after, say, 1990, it might strike you as very strange that once upon a time in America, every male, with only a few exceptions, had to serve in the army whether he wanted to or not. But it’s true. When I was a boy, every male over 18 had to register for the draft and pretty much everybody got sucked up. (Well, God told us through Samuel what a king would do to us, didn’t he? Too bad we didn’t listen.)

And so The Phil Silvers Show, also known as simply Sgt. Bilko, struck a universal chord back then that it doesn’t strike anymore… because we have no draft, thank God.

Sgt. Bilko (Silvers) was a smooth con man working in the motor pool and being a thorn in the side to his commanding officer, Col. Hall. Paul Ford was just great as the hapless colonel, perpetually bamboozled by the slippery sergeant.

This was an awfully funny show, although a military draft is not funny at all. God did warn us about increasing the size and power of the state (I Samuel Chapter 8)–but no, the people had to have a king like everybody else! The show ran from 1955 through 1959 and was very popular. Gee, I can hardly believe I was only 10 years old when Sgt. Bilko went off the air.

Seems like only yesterday…

Bonus Critter Video: Guinea Pig Drive

What if Rawhide had been about herding guinea pigs instead of cattle? I guess the guys couldn’t’ve called themselves cowboys. They’d have to be pigboys.

For those of you who missed the Bronze Age, Rawhide was about cowboys herding cattle across the western plains, and all the adventures they had incidental to their dull and grueling job. Even a run-in with Druids!

Anyhow, here are guinea pigs chasing a human and then running past him–he’s gonna need a lasso. Maybe there are Druids in the house. That would explain it.

A Loud Breath of Fresh Air!

(Good grief! Look how young Chuck Connors was when he played the Rifleman! I swear he used to be older than me…)

Don’t you wish, sometimes, that someone would come along to clean out the cobwebs?

Just for fun, try counting the number of shots Chuck gets off in 20 seconds. I know, I know, we’re not allowed to talk about guns, we can protect our freedom just as well by engaging in a meaningful dialogue, blah-blah…

But that makes for a really lousy Western.

Memory Lane: Adult Westerns

Westerns were big, big, big! on TV while I was growing up. But toward the end of the 1950s, the studios decided we needed Westerns that offered something more than just cowboys riding around shooting people. We needed some adult Westerns with meat on their bones. And psychology. Lots of psychology.

Lawman, for one, aired on Sunday night after my bedtime. But I could always hear the theme song coming on, and then my brother and I would get out of bed–we had a room upstairs–and creep toward the hall door. If we opened it a crack, careful not to make any noise, we could peer through that crack all the way downstairs–right down to the TV screen. And we watched as much of Lawman as we could before conking out and crawling back to our beds.

I was not an adult, but I liked those adult Westerns. The ones by Warner Bros. always had great theme songs. “Cheyenne, Cheyenne, when will you be happening by…” “Sugarfoot, Sugarfoot, easy-lopin’, cattle-ropin’ Sugarfoot…” And they were still shooting bad guys, instead of just letting them take over our society and screwing it up.

Besides which, the set decorator for Lawman was–of all people–William Wallace! “Braveheart”! How cool was that?

‘Memory Lane: Don’t Try This’ (2018)

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Growing up with 1950s TV, I must have seen this a thousand times in ancient Paul Terry cartoons–assorted mice, cats, and humans safely jumping off rooftops with an umbrella for a parachute.

Memory Lane: Don’t Try This!

All over the world, kids got hurt trying to duplicate this feat. Jump out the fifth-story window? Sure, no problem–I’ve got an umbrella!

These were really old cartoons, with captions instead of speech. Like silent movies. Actually, all these decades later (some of them are a hundred years old), they’re still pretty funny.

But kids will try to do what they see characters do in cartoons–so do your best to make them understand why they shouldn’t. (“Experience is the best teacher, but the fees are very high.” Especially when you jump out the window.)

Memory Lane: “Clothe the Animals”

In 1959 a kooky character called “G. Clifford Prout” appeared on the Today Show to launch his “Clothe the Animals” campaign (https://priceonomics.com/the-hoaxster-who-revealed-sad-truths-about-america/).

It was a hoax engineered by an inveterate hoaxster, Alan Abel. Nevertheless, some 50,000 Americans signed up to support his phony campaign.

What does that tell us about our national credulity quotient? Or did a lot of those people sign up just to be part of the gag?

At any rate, we had some laughs about it on the playground.

I’m afraid our populace has grown a bit more daft since then.


Memory Lane: ‘Kukla, Fran, and Ollie’

This takes us a long way down Memory Lane. These days it’s hard to imagine that a little series built around a clown, a dragon, and a cheery young woman would turn into a major hit. Indeed, in 2009 the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Kukla, Frank, and Ollie.

Kukla the clown and Ollie the dragon, puppets, engaged in gentle banter and funny songs with Fran Allison, the only live human in the show–and people just plain loved it. The show ran from 1947 through 1957. Watching it is one of my earliest childhood memories. But it was even more popular among adults than children.

And would you believe it was all ad-libbed? No foolin’. Fran had experience as a live radio comedian, so she was up to the challenge. I wonder if anybody could successfully do a show like that today.

Well, what could be more benign and harmless? I like benign and harmless–and we could use more of it. Lots more.

Memory Lane: The ‘Peter Gunn’ Theme

I never saw Peter Gunn because it was 1958, I was nine years old, and my folks sent me to bed well before the show came on. But the sounds of television used to filter up the stairs to my bedroom, and there was just no way I was going to sleep through Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme music. If this was not one of the all-time great TV themes, I don’t know what was.

I was usually still awake anyway, reading Uncle Scrooge, Mickey Mouse, and Archie comics by flashlight–and the light went kind of orangey as the battery ran down. Not good for my eyes.

I heard a lot of great theme music in those days. And Mancini was the greatest of them all.