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October 24, 2014

The Five: Okay, now I get it

by Adam Finley, posted May 23rd 2006 8:42AM

pee wee's playhouseHave you ever come across a show you used to watch as a kid and realized there was a lot of stuff that went over your head? I'm talking about those shows you enjoyed as a kid, but also enjoyed as an adult because they seemed to work on two different levels. Well, maybe it would help my explanation if I just dove right in and listed five shows I loved as a kid, and then rediscovered as an adult. If this triggers any memories, let it all out in the comments. Onward:

Batman: The old Adam West series was reran when I was younger, and I love it for its comic book / pop art aesthetic, kooky villains, and nutty fight scenes. What I didn't realize until I was older was how clever the show really was, and that it was actually very self-aware and downright hysterical at times. I don't know if I could imagine West playing a "serious" Batman, but I can't imagine anyone else in this role.

Three's Company: I watched this show as a kid, and even then I understood the whole gag about Jack Tripper pretending to be gay, and I also knew there was something a bit ribald about the whole show, but upon catching reruns many years later on TV Land, I was floored by how heavy they piled on the innuendo at times. I always knew there was something a bit naughty about the show, but at a young age my brain's innocence filter was still working hard to protect me.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse: If you grew up watching Pee-Wee's Playhouse like I did, I encourage you to check it out again. Beneath all the silliness, the series would also make the occasional wink and nod to the adults in the audience. This isn't surprising, as the idea for the show was sprung from a very short-lived TV show featuring Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) called The Pee-wee Herman Show. Several of the characters from that series were also featured on Playhouse.

Rocky and Bullwinkle: I'm not sure why I loved this cartoon so much as a kid, because I certainly didn't understand a lot of the jokes. I guess I just liked Bullwinkle's goofy voice. Definitely a show that would portend the dry, irreverent humor of The Simpsons, Rocky and Bullwinkle featured some of the best writers in the biz, including Allan Burns, who would go on to create both Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda.

Looney Tunes: Actually, I still think I enjoy Looney Tunes on the same level I did as a kid, but there's a rich history behind these cartoons, which began as theatrical shorts and later found new life on television. Essentially, Looney Tunes did what their offspring, shows like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, would do decades later. It satirized Hollywood and the politics of its day. Little kids can enjoy the explosions and crazy characters, but a little knowledge of American history adds a whole new dimension to these animated shorts.

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emily.

Vintage Sesame Street is totally enjoyable as an adult - the pop culture references alone are worth it.

The other "children's" shows that are very enjoyable as an adult are all of the Spielberg-produced shows: Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid.

Other animated shows that are very good for adults and children are Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles. I'm constantly amazed how well they work as serialized shows and how they manage to hint at adult themes without becoming inappropriate for children.

May 24 2006 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Erica

Semame Street; totally. I never knew any of the celebrities that were on the show, or referenced on the show until a decade later.

May 23 2006 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tammy

My mom use to tell me about how much she enjoyed Tom and Jerry. I was a kid and I didn't get it, it was a funny cartoon but not that funny. Later when I was much older and I saw them on the Toon network, I got it. Same with older Looney Toons cartoons. We taped a Looney Toons marathon and died laughing for days watching it. We even picked out the ones that got edited to be on Sat morning tv when we were kids.

May 23 2006 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bex

Golden Girls.

Just last week I was on a sick day and my roommate was home being unemployed at the moment. She and I watched two hours of Golden Girls and every other minute a jaw would drop and one of us would exclaim, "Our parents let us watch this?!"

I also didn't get a lot of the jokes from Full House. Every now and then I'll watch one of the early episodes when the guys were single and dating 80s metal whores. I didn't get a lot of that. Thank goodness. Uncle Jesse- that rapscallion!

May 23 2006 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BartmanDK

You cant forget Freakazoid!! :D

May 23 2006 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jen

Garfield & Friends is another one that had a lot of references that go right over the heads of kids.

May 23 2006 at 12:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MosquitoControl

I was too young to get the jack-pretending-to-be-gay thing.

I just thought John Ritter was really gay and couldn't figure out how no one in the series figured this out.

Almost there! But I had to be 6 at the time.

May 23 2006 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Justin

Animaniacs was brilliant at this. Sure it wasn't the first to do that but it did it the best.

Not forgetting its spinoff Pinky and the Brain.

May 23 2006 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Das_Klaun

Actually, The Pee-Wee Herman Show was never a TV series; it was a popular LA stage show that was filmed for an HBO special. Written by Reubens and the great Phil Hartman, the special featured Playhouse mainstays like Kap'n Karl (played by Hartman), Pterry, and Jambi the Genie. I think the special was just released on DVD, though if not, you can find it on ebay, on bittorrent, or probably on youtube.

May 23 2006 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brooklynite

Best Sesame Street moment evar...The Count: My name is The Count. They call me The Count because I love to count things.

Guy Smiley: My name is Guy Smiley. They call me Guy Smiley because I changed my name from Bernie Liederkranz.

May 23 2006 at 10:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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