Finding the New Bugs Bunny

Having children inherently means a lot of sacrifice. So far I’ve given up eleven years, my sanity, my hair, my hopes, my dreams and one colon. Unfortunately for me, one is all I had to start with.

But the sacrifice that digs the deepest, the one they didn’t tell us about in the manual, it the loss of quality television. I don’t know when or how I lost it, all I know is that it’s gone. There have been phases of course, from Sesame Street to Blues Clues to The Clone Wars, but through it all the challenge has been clear: find something the kids enjoy and doesn’t make me want to throw up.

When Conor was a toddler he watched the gamut from Sesame (well worth watching) to Barney (get the rope and hang yourself boring). We got him VHS tapes of Baby Einstein, which included Baby Mozart, Baby Beethoven et al. They set classical music against a backdrop of primary-colored toys and gadgets that twisted, spun, and turned in a very cool, post-hippie, psychedelic way. The kid sat there as if he were in an LSD-enhanced stupor—which, let’s face it, is why television was invented. And while we’re on hallucinogenics, there was also Telletubbies from England, which featured four aliens with televisions in their stomachs who spoke gibberish and wore giant, primary-colored (a trend here) suits. Ever since Sigmund the Sea Monster and The Banana Splits, those HR Pufnstuf creatures have given me the willies. Telletubbies took the creeps a bit further by making the entire set—hills, sun, alien ship—oversized as well, and there was a giant baby’s face in the sun constantly looking down at them. Yeeech. Whenever the yellow one (La La) bounced this big red ball, Conor would lose his mind laughing. We had to rewind a few times to make sure it was the show and not potential mental illness. If this were not bad enough, somewhere during our Sesame-watching days, they capriciously decided to change the format of the show my wife and I had grown up with. Someone with a Ph D at PBS decided that children were now too stupid to follow the “storyline”–the goings on in the neighborhood with Oscar or Big Bird or Elmo that used to be intertwined between pinball counting cartoons, film of hippos chasing birds away with their tails and Grover showing us “near” and “far”. The last time I saw it, the storyline was in a 30 minute continuous block. Sacrilege! But still better than that freaky purple dinosaur.

As my second son Mychal was working his way through his PBS shows, which included the whole Blues Clues Steve-to-Joe switcheroo fiasco, Conor had graduated to Nickelodeon. And a miracle occurred. The miracle was Spongebob Squarepants, the answer to the immortal question, “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea/Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!” Finally a show that appealed to children and adults alike, if not 50/50 than at least 65/35. How else to explain the character Plankton, who is microscopic, one-eyed, and harbors a Napoleonic desire for world domination. His version of the F. U. N. song asserts, “F is for Fire, burning down the whole town, U is for Uranium…bombs! N is for No survivors…!” This was my kind of funny. But, alas, Nickelodeon also brought into our lives the show “Drake and Josh”, a nearly humorless buddy comedy that introduced one Miranda Cosgrove as the bratty, evil, vindictive little sister. Cosgrove parlayed her unlikable, one-note persona into a slightly more tolerable buddy comedy called I Carly. What makes that show tolerable is this guy named Jerry Trainor, who plays Carly’s older brother and is actually quite good. Though I’m sure he’s doing well financially and has a steady gig, I can only hope he plays out his contract and becomes a free agent, ’cause watching him toil away on this show is like watching Ernie Banks spend all those years losing on the Chicago Cubs.

These days the pickings are a bit better. There are some really weird, funny, off-beat shows out there like Adventure Time, The Penguins of Madagascar, The Regular Show and Bob’s Burgers. All very cross-generational. Bob’s Burgers features an actor, H. Jon Benjamin, who’s well known to the adult-swim crowd for voicing the son in Dr. Katz and Coach McGirk on Home Movies, two classics of the cartoon-for-adults genre. Mychal is also into The Clone Wars, which gives me an excuse to watch it myself. Conor watches all this martial arts stuff like Ninja Warrior and Unbeatable Banzuke, which are ten-tear-old Japanese game shows. Not so keen on those, but I can’t complain too much. The days of Bugs Bunny, which single-handedly introduced me to everything I knew about 1930-1950 music and cultural references, are unfortunately through. Though I do have four DVDs worth of old episodes that the boys latched onto like they were a gift from outer space. I guess you can’t beat the classics.

    • Joel Flowers
    • March 10th, 2011

    The first opera music I ever heard was from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “Kill the Wabbit” was probably the first aria that ever caught my attention.

    • Joel Flowers
    • March 10th, 2011

    …and I agree. There was always something really disturbing about Telletubbies.

  1. That amazes me. I thought for sure you would have had an aria drilled into your head by the age of five. I saw a show called Bugs On Broadway that had an actual ochestra playing along to the cartoons. Pretty cool.

    • Joel Flowers
    • March 11th, 2011

    I remember that, too. Look at what kids are exposed to now, and compare. No wonder we have dumbed down.

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