Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Objects in Rear-View Mirror May Appear More Awesome Than They Are

For some time now, I have lamented the loss of the cartoons from my childhood. While I was able to see Looney Tunes (the real ones, not the baby version, yuck) on a regular basis, my sons rarely see them. I don’t think they have ever witnessed Bugs Bunny perform The Barber of Seville, Wagner or conduct an orchestra. That makes me cry.

My kids have seen Tom & Jerry, but censored. Not all the violence has been removed (that would be the entire show) but enough that I notice and get annoyed. They have never seen a Woody Woodpecker or Chilly Willy cartoon and I dare not mention Deputy Dawg.

They’ve seen Pink Panther and Underdog (including Tennessee Tuxedo, Go-Go Gophers and Tooter Turtle) because we have DVDs. But it’s come to the point where you have to buy DVD sets in order to expose your kids to these gems. That gets expensive. You can’t possibly show them all the cartoons you watched as a kid without dropping a month’s salary.

I watch cartoons these days with my sons and I feel like something is missing. Sure, there are some good ones, but it seems that for every cartoon I can sit and enjoy with them, there are ten that are intolerable.

Plus, they are on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Kids become desensitized to the magic of cartoons. Back when they were on only Saturday mornings and for two hours after school, you appreciated the occasional prime time cartoon. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was the best thing about Halloween. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas could only be seen near Christmas each year. Events like this made me get my homework done on time so I could sit in front of the TV and watch these masterpieces. The whole time, I would glance over at the window and think in wonder, “This is really happening! I’m watching cartoons and it’s dark outside!”

I had begun to accept the possibility that my sons would never see many of the cartoons I saw on a regular basis. But then, I changed cable providers and discovered the Boomerang Network. Now my sons can watch old Hanna-Barbera cartoons as often as they want.

I went through a period of intense joy over this network’s appearance in my home. My boys would pretend to be El Ka-Bong, draw up plans to create their own robot maid ala Rosie from The Jetsons and be overheard tra-la-la-ing the Banana Splits theme song through the house. I praised the Boomerang Network up, down and sideways for making these shows accessible again.

But when I happened to see an episode of Jabber Jaw with them, the whole fa├žade came crashing down around me. My sons seemed to enjoy it, as I did at their age, but all I could see was a talking shark walking on its rear fins (the top heavy design a physical impossibility), breathing air (they even drew nostrils on him) and talking like Curly from the Three Stooges (outright plagiarism).

More shows that were either just plain cheesy or stupid were seen. An episode of Pebbles and Bam-Bam here, an appearance of the Chan Clan on Scooby-Doo there and I had seen enough. I realized that the cartoons I remembered so fondly from my childhood sucked just as badly as many of the cartoons do these days. My appreciation for them had more to do with being eight years old than it had anything to do with their quality.

It’s around this point when I realized the name Boomerang Network was perfect. Not only is it returning to the old days of cartoons, but it is bringing me back to the reality that cartoons could be just as crappy then as they are now. When it comes down to it, there are only a few cartoons in any era good enough to stand the test of time.

As Jabber Jaw worked in the nyuk-nyuk laugh that was so obviously absconded from Curly and mixed in a Rodney Dangerfield, “I don’t get no respect,” I sighed. Then I said to my sons, “This is stupid. Isn’t Phineas & Ferb on?”

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