Continuing with the theme of my formative years and things I genuinely loved and still feel happy about. Trust me, we'll get back to the nastiness and betrayal soon enough.
The Electric Company
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
I'm obviously from the first generation that really got the benefit of mandated educational television and The Children's Television workshop. Sesame Street did not "teach me how to read." I come from a typical East Coast, Jewish, intellectual family. I ALWAYS read. I read Steal This Book from my parent's bookshelves and tried to take over the Kindergarten. BUT I watched Sesame Street every day in the early 70's and it MIGHT have helped me count cakes. I did love Kermit, always! Which kind of made me hate Grover when he would come up and go HEYYYYYYY FROGGGGGGY and slap Kermit on the back. I thought that must hurt a lot. I like the pop culture references that I'm sure of most of the kids didn't get. I might have had a crush on Guy Smiley. However, SS always had a sentimental streak which even then was an anathema. I liked Oscar the Grouch, but never liked Big Bird. The Snuffleupagus stuff made me sick to my stomach, both because the character was annoying and the whole idea of not being believed was truly disturbing. Luckily my SS days were way before Elmo showed up. YUCK.
While Johnny Carson is the most soothing remembered voice from my TV childhood, Mr. Rogers comes close. Remember, I started watching before the jokes and post-ironic imitations. I took Fred very seriously when he said, I was special just for being me. And I related to Henrietta Pussycat. A lot. Probably the last time I was a cat person rather than a dog person. I FUCKING HATED LADY ELAINE FAIRCHILD! What a bitch! I may have shipped Mr. Rogers and Lady Aberline though.
I went back to Mr. Rogers during some of the worst throes of what my adolescent drama-queen self perceived as a miserable adolescence. By then the mockery had started, but I still found Mr. Rogers incredibly reassuring, and maybe sexy in a kinky, messed up, father figure kind of way.
Couldn't tolerate most of Make Believe stuff by then...Aside from X and Henrietta, they're all kind of assholes, especially the Royals. (I wonder if that was a sly commentary on power and privilege?) (Hate Speedy Delivery too, but I LOVE Trolley)
But the show I loved, the one I miss, the one that helped make me the snarky wench I am today was The Electric Company. I still smile over memories of The Boy Is In The Chair, The Adventures of Letter Man (JOAN RIVERS!), Rita Moreno, Jennifer of the Jungle, Fargo North, Decoder! (Just saying it makes me smile, although I'm embarrassed by how long it took me to figure out WHY that title is funny.) It had so much New York-style energy and in my memory it FEELS like what I felt about the 70's, not to mention that for "children's television" a pretty subversive and snotty sense of humor.
MORGAN FREEMAN! What ever else Morgan does, he will always be Easy Reader to me.
I can still sing bits of this and love the minor key on "Park Avenue:"
Everything I loved about living in NY (before I was cruelly saved from the NYC Public School System of the 70's and 80's) in the mid-70's is just encapsulated in The Electric Company. I never wanted to live on Sesame Street and much as I like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, I'd probably get pretty bored there, but GOD I WANTED TO LIVE or at least work for The Electric Company!
(Maybe they also helped me become a Full Metal Beta too. Easy Reader wouldn't put up with any of that BS.)
So yeah, next time PBS does a pledge drive...give them some money.