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September 30, 2014

Creepiest Children's TV Shows: Kiddie Fare That Gave Us Nightmares

by AOL TV Staff, posted Oct 30th 2009 2:45PM
H.R. PufnstufWhether it's the lifelike costumes, the special effects or the bizarre stories themselves, kids' TV shows can be downright terrifying. We've combed through television history and our own repressed memories to come up with a list of shows that leave both children and adults crying for their mommies. So grab your teddy bears, get out your therapist's number and enjoy our list of creepy kids' television shows ever. -- by Daynah Burnett

'H.R. Pufnstuf' (NBC, 1969-71)
The Premise: Shipwrecked, 11 year-old Jimmy and his talking flute Freddy are taken in by Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf, a dragon committed to keeping Jimmy safe from the evil clutches of Witchiepoo, who torments all of Living Island from atop her Vroom Broom.
Why It's Creepy: From the life-size puppetry to the color-saturated sets, everything about this show screams "bad drug trip." Add the fact that even seemingly inanimate objects the island can come alive at any time, one wonders how Jimmy didn't go mad long before the show's 17-episode run ended.


'Barney & Friends' (PBS, 1992-present)
The Premise: A stuffed purple dinosaur comes to life when kids at a community center decide to use their imagination to ease their boredom. Once "alive," Barney dances (badly), sings (nasally) and greets every problem thrown at him with an eternally optimistic attitude and plenty of awkward hugs.
Why It's Creepy: Forget the lame Barney costume, it's the children that really make your skin crawl. Holding hands with frozen smiles, they vacantly sway off-beat to a forced nursery rhyme about loving everyone, but seem to secretly hate one another. Check out that begrudging high-five near the end of the clip: Don't upstage me, man!


'Boohbah' (PBS, 2003-05)
The Premise: Five rotund creatures live in cloud pods and emerge to line-dance when summoned by a child's giggly call. Fueled by the energy of a comet-like Boohball, these Boohbahs fly around to offer "presents" to the StoryPeople, while grunting, clicking, and cooing -- but never, ever talking.
Why It's Creepy: Plain and simple, it's the Boohbahs themselves. Part newborn baby, part deep sea creature, they've got blinking lights for eyebrows and make noises that sound more like a bout with the stomach flu than children's entertainment.


'Land of the Lost' (NBC, 1974-76)
The Premise: On a family outing, Rick, Will and Holly Marshall are sucked through a time portal and find themselves stranded in an alternate dimension inhabited by dinosaurs (the most menacing of which is a T-Rex named "Grumpy"), a race of nocturnal lizard-people called Sleestaks, and various cave men -- some friendly, all hairy. Battling for survival, the Marshalls aim to find their way back home.
Why It's Creepy: Without much explanation, the Marshalls are trapped in a netherworld that doesn't conform to regular time and space, and so there's the assumption that just about anything could happen. For its time and budget, 'Land of the Lost' offered many impressive special effects, especially stop-motion creatures and the tunic-wearing, bug-eyed Sleestaks, which contributed heavily to the series' creep factor.


'New Zoo Revue' (syndicated, 1972-77)
The Premise: Henrietta Hippo, Freddie the Frog and Charlie the Owl live alongside married couple Doug and Emmy Jo, where they discuss life lessons through song and dance. With a heavy emphasis on moral fiber and education, they interact with the townspeople, including the elderly Mr. Dingle (a 30-something Chuck Woolery in unconvincing heavy makeup).
Why It's Creepy: While the fabric animal costumes are indeed unsettling, with big googly eyes and flappy jaws, it's the content that's really disturbing. Witness the sing-along called 'The Miracle of Birth,' in which Doug sings about the birds and the bees while hugging a giant frog.


'Oobi' (Noggin, 2003-07)
The Premise: Preschooler Oobi and his younger sister Uma, learn about the world alongside their friend Kako, all under the watch of the elder Grampu.
Why It's Creepy: Bare-handed puppetry. That's right, Oobi is just some guy's naked hand pretending to talk with a couple of plastic eyeballs perched on top. Grampu bumps ups the ookiness with the puppeteer curling in his fingertips to resemble toothless old-man gums. That's just wrong.


'Pee Wee's Playhouse' (CBS, 1986-90)
The Premise: Man-child Pee Wee Herman lives in an interactive playhouse filled with a motley crew of characters (all with clever names like Pterri the Pterodactyl and Cowntess the Cow). Living there, his aim is to be silly, naughty and wacky, while teaching kids about the importance of having fun. Oh, and Laurence Fishburne is a cowboy.
Why It's Creepy: At the time, it wasn't. In fact, the show was downright innovative when it came to incorporating animation and mixed-media footage, entertaining kids and parents alike. But after Pee Wee Herman creator Paul Reubens' 1991 arrest for exposing himself in a seedy Florida theater, the show was pulled from reruns on CBS; and ever since, the idea of Pee Wee entertaining kids just feels icky.


'Sigmund & The Sea Monsters' (NBC, 1973-75)
The Premise: After being excised from his sea monster family for refusing to frighten people, Sigmund (who resembles a snaggle-toothed, but harmless, head of lettuce) is befriended by two human boys, who decide to keep Sigmund hidden away in their clubhouse.
Why It's Creepy: Darkly lit and uber-judgmental, Sigmund's dysfunctional monster family are particularly unpleasant to the eyes and ears. Their fangs and tentacles don't help much either.


'Teletubbies' (PBS, 1997-2001)
The Premise: Four live-action creatures, the Teletubbies, live in a Tubbytronic Superdome where they ritualistically eat "Tubby Tustard" and manically chase their vacuum cleaner Noo-Noo until she cleans up their mess. Outside, their world is inhabited only by live rabbits and giant telescopes that talk, and it's there that they display short TV segments which broadcast from the TV screens on their bellies. All this, under the watchful eye of a disembodied baby head that lives in the sun.
Why It's Creepy: See above.


'The Great Space Coaster' (syndicated, 1981-86)
The Premise: Giant-headed space clown Baxter takes three groovy singers to an asteroid inhabited by various creatures like Gary Gnu and Goriddle the Gorilla. The problem is that Baxter is on the run from M.T. Promises, who owns the circus from which Baxter escaped enslavement. As the gang travels the galaxy in a flying convertible, adventures await!
Why It's Creepy: Because the show constantly shifted between cartoon and live-action segments, the catatonic expression on Baxter's real life puppet head was only made freakier in contrast to the liveliness of his cartoon self. Think something like a zombie-fied McDonald's character and you're close.


'Yo Gabba Gabba!' (Nick Jr., 2007-present)
The Premise: There isn't one. Its mixed cast of one-eyed monsters, cat dragons and yellow robots is led by DJ Lance Rock, who carries a giant boom box and hosts the show through segments of animation, live music and children trapped in '80s-style video games.
Why It's Creepy: We fear what we don't understand.

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