Thundarr The Barbarian
This fantasy/sci-fi/adventure series gets a lot of love online, collecting over 9,000 signatures on a petition for a DVD release. The plot, for the uninitiated, is as follows: in 1994 (you know, the future!), Earth has been decimated by a “runaway planet” that sliced the moon in half (hate when that happens). Then, two thousand years later, “Earth is reborn:” The main characters are Thundarr, a big dumb barbarian with a special weapon called the Sun-Sword, Ookla the Mok (basically Chewbacca with fangs) and Ariel, a tart sorceress who tolerates Thundarr’s stupidity. The three travelers wander the now-decimated planet, which is full of “ancient” technology such as movie projectors, cars, and soda machines. Somehow, high-level magic has become commonplace, and pirates (pirates!) roam the land, making life both difficult for the common folk and extremely entertaining for the viewer.
According to BeatlesCartoon.com, the Beatles’ Saturday morning cartoons have never officially been released on VHS/DVD – and that’s a shame. These charming animated adventures were very much of their time, obviously, but the animated Liverpool Lads are just as cute – and the songs just as hummable – as they were in the sixties.
The Jackson 5ive
Before Michael Jackson had so much plastic surgery that he looked like a cartoon, he actually was a cartoon! This little gem originally aired on ABC from 1971-1973, but it must have continued in re-runs because I remember it more vividly than I care to admit. Oddly enough, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the Jacksons didn’t actually contribute anything to the cartoon other than their music.
“Snake cans!” This wonderful local program was a variety/game show of sorts and featured actual kids – many of the YouTube videos are from the grown-ups who were in the audience at the tapings.
Scooby’s All Star Laff-A-Lympics
Although you can get discs containing every episode of “Wacky Races” (cool!) and “Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines” (um, who cares?), the never-ending competition between The Scooby Doobies, The Yogi Yahooeys and The Really Rottens is thus far confined to the dustbin of cartoon sports history. With everyone still high on the Olympics, this is a perfect time to put these out.
The Magic Garden
WPIX, later syndicated, 1972-1984
Sherlock the squirrel, Flapper the bird, the Chuckle Patch – ah, the memories. I had a big crush on hosts Carole and Paula, especially Paula (I think it was Paula), who kind of looked like my babysitter at the time. The bell-bottoms, the looong pigtails, the guitar – what’s not to love? The ladies are still around, still friends, and their website says they plan to release the shows on DVD soon.
PBS, 1972-1978 (Remake: 1999-2005)
“Won’t you zoom, zoom, zooma zoom:” In contrast to the more amped-up kids’ television produced today, the intro to Zoom, even now, has something of a calming effect. The kids, who created much of the content for the show, were real kids, they looked like real kids, and they even danced and sang like real kids, even if that meant musical numbers that were not terribly polished (take that, High School Musical!). There is a VHS collection of select moments from the original 1970′s run, but no DVD. There was also a remake in 1999 that ended in 2005; the website is still active, noting over five million visitors. Um, hello? DVD, please?
PBS, 1953-1994 (various incarnations)
It started in 1953, which puts it at the very beginning of children’s television (or television at all, for that matter). Romper Room was like a virtual kindergarten class, but it was so sweet and easy you loved every minute of it. The hosts were always “Miss” – Miss Nancy, Miss Louise, and the one I remember, Miss Mary Ann (here’s an interview with her from 2006). Who doesn’t remember hoping to hear their name when Miss Whoever closed out the show with, “And I see Peter, and Lucy, and Pilot Inspektor:”
Batman (Live Action TV Series)
Adam West may not be interested in The Dark Knight, but that’s probably because he still thinks of himself as the one and only Keeper of the Cowl. Despite huge demand, this classic and campy take on Bob Kane’s creation is not available on DVD, except for the 1966 TV movie. Disputes over rights abound, but the episodes are still shown in syndication.
Big Blue Marble
Big Blue Marble was one of many children’s shows in the 1970′s that asked the question “can’t we all just get along?” This one did it partly by encouraging viewers to become pen pals; some web sites claim that many children stayed in touch long after the show went off the air. “Together is a word we must learn to understand:Love your fellow man, woman, and everyone.” Nothing wrong with that, right?
The Wonderful World of Disney
ABC, NBC, CBS, Disney Channel, 1954-present (sort of)
This Disney anthology show had various names and incarnations, and is still around in some form (including airing in Spanish as El Maravilloso Mundo de Disney). It included movies, cartoons, and Walt being his imagineering self – this is the Disney that guys like BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow revere, not the company that currently produces nonsense like Hannah Montana. Select shows are available on DVD but there is no “complete season”-style release.
Bozo the Clown
Syndicated, 1956-2001 (various incarnations)
Only a few episodes are available on DVD, none featuring Bob Bell, who appears to be the fan favorite, despite the fact that many actors donned the red rubber nose and dopey hair. (One of them, Bill Britten, was an acting teacher at the High School of Performing Arts and even appeared in the movie Fame.) Bozo is the most iconic of clowns; even though there is no current version on the air at the moment, future generations can enjoy his evil doppelganger: Krusty.
Kid Superpower Hour with Shazam!
This hour of superpower contained two segments – “Hero High” and “Shazam!” The former is on DVD in full, the latter is not because of rights issues. “Hero High” is hilarious, but mostly hilariously bad, especially the live action musical segments, which make The Archies look like Metallica. As for Mr. Mightiest Mortal, he’s still around in various forms, but this animated version was much beloved by many (including me). The robot walker thingies in the intro jogged my memory immediately. A live-action Shazam film is supposedly in the works with The Rock as Black Adam.