Friday, July 13, 2007
Forgotten Sid & Marty Krofft Shows
For the greater part of the 1970's, Sid and Marty Krofft defined Saturday morning children's television with high-concept stories, ominous themes, alternative realities, hallucinatory production design, trippy music, giant puppets, inadvertent references to skin flutes and more abandoned children than a Dickens retrospective. From the fantastical and frightening H.R. Pufnstuf to the frightening and frightening Land of the Lost, the Krofft brothers spun magic time and time again with shows whose freakish images couldn't have burned more into a child's mind if they were attached to the end of a branding iron. But almost as fascinating as their hits are the series that failed to capture the public's attention and were sadly forgotten...until now:
Nice to Meat You (1971)
A young Mersey lad, Jimmy Jim, who eats nothing but fast food gets shot in the head and wakes up in Pattiesburgh, a city “founded, incorporated, governed in a democratic-republican fashion and outfitted with an extensive, financially-prudent mass transportation system by huge, talking hamburgers,” according to the less-than-memorable theme song lyrics. The show revolved around the town’s good-hearted leader “Burgermeister,” the power-pop trio “The Pickle Chips” and the curiously out-of-place “Asian Salad with Premium Spring Salad Mix” all trying to help Jimmy Jim get back to his own world. Unfortunately, the child actor playing Jimmy spent the entire series screaming in utter, unstoppable terror at the sight of the large-headed, anthropomorphic food puppets, resulting in every episode focusing on the costumed cast sitting around playing cards, talking about summer stock theater and dropping dead from heat exhaustion.
Crash Course (1976)
Three clean-cut teens (Pam, Billy and The Black One) find and fix-up an old jalopy only to realize that not only is it alive but it also embodies the spirit of little-known founding father Arthur Middleton (voiced by Richard Burton). "Artie"--as he is dubbed by the kids much to his dismay--tries to teach the trio about the historical significance of the Revolutionary War and the very importance of the upcoming Bicentennial, but the gang instead decides to enter the car in one demolotion derby after another to help raise money for their hippy band, "The Daisy Chain." Much of the show's humor derived from "Artie" slowly losing not only his posh accent but also his motor skills, cognitive abilities and eventually his very sense of self due to the horrible collisions he endured on the derby circuit on a daily basis. By series' end the immobile "Artie" could only form bubbles from his grille and demand pancakes at an ever-increasing volume, forcing the kids to abandon him for a sentient skateboard voiced by Charles Nelson Reilly.
Psychotropical Paradise (1974)
A young brother and sister make friends with a talking brownie inside a mirror-walled kewpie doll teetering on the edge of a teacup in a pirate ship sailing against the tide of button-up conformity, as embodied by Billy Barty playing a corn fritter festooned with talking medallions. Although Sid and Marty Krofft have categoricallly denied that Psychotropical Paradise was influenced by--or made any reference to--drug use, the show's 42-minute opening theme song (in which an old woman moans "I am the one scratching inside the wall behind your bed" over and over again while a xylophone learns to play itself), the use of the same plot for every single epsiode (boy and girl try to find way home, meet cow, the lichen take arms, a beatiful egg hatches from a constable's eye and the rain echoes the sound of chocolate) and host Syd Barrett (who would end each show demanding to know how the viewers found his home address before retiring to his mother's basement) all make for a strong counterargument. Despite attempts to impart life lessons (such as the importance of writing your name on your hand, phoneticaly, should you forget who you are), the program baffled critics and scared the bejesus out of four-year-olds, who were its target market. Eventually the show was pulled and replaced with another Krofft series, Clap, Clap, Clap, about giant hands that made thunder noise for a living and the little British boy who winds up in their world for some inexplicable reason or another.