The Thing I am Glad About Today

That Athena doesn’t give a damn about Hannah Montana. I do believe she lumps the show in with all the other live-action tween shows like Drake and Josh and iCarly and The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, which she unreservedly believes are pure evil, which is of course something I encourage.

That said, there is no live-action kids’ show today that approaches the pure vomitrociousness of the live action kids’ shows of my youth, like, say, the terrifying horror that was Big John, Little John, which appeared as if it were produced with the money sucked out of pay phones:

The kid star of BJLJ, incidentally, is Robbie Rist, who is perhaps better known, depending on your age and/or geekitude, as “Cousin Oliver” from the Brady Bunch, “Dr. Zee” from Galactica 1980, and the voice of Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies of the early 90s. That’s right, three decades rocking the cultural margins! So, of course, he has a Web page. Well done, Robbie Rist. Well done, indeed.

29 Comments on “The Thing I am Glad About Today”

  1. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, liberated!

    Damn you, Scalzi!

    I had suppressed this since it was first on. Now it has earfucked me and I will never be the same again. Curse you and your bacony ways!

    I give you this: Camelopardis!

    P.S. I wish my kid didn’t like Hanna Mon Sjuite Life Classified 101. And I am the best Dad ever for missing the first inning of Game 6 so she could see the “iCarly” Halloween special.

  2. I’m with you there. Elayna, thankfully, decided that TV wasn’t worth wasting time on a few years back (even for Kim Possible and Foster’s, sadly, which means that we just watch without her), and if it weren’t for a couple of our shows that she watches with us — Pushing Daisies and Eureka, she’d view the set as nothing more than a Wii Delivery Device.

    As for BJLJ, I never heard of it, although in light of the thirteen episodes for which it lasted, I’m not shocked. I do have fond memories of Otherworld, Voyagers, and Monster Squad, however.

  3. You have to remember that the 1970s was not a good time for kids’ TV. That was the dark ages when the evil known as Action For Children’s Television had their foul grasp on what went out over the airwaves. That was when every episode had to have the ham-handed “And what did we learn today?” moment.

    Yes, the “effects” were both bad and laughable. But to be charitable, remember that this was 1976. STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE was still a year away from release.

    And I always considered Herb Edelman as the star of BJ,LJ. Yes, I watched it. I would watch it over the Smurfs any day.

  4. Launch?!? I said lunch!

    Now I’ve got this thing resurrected from the dead in my brain, along with that damn show about the talking dog…
    You are a bad, bad man sir, a bad, bad man.

  5. I, too, had suppressed “Big John, Little John” from my memory.

    I do have fond memories of all the trippy Kroft brothers productions, as well as “Korg: 70,000 BC,” which was a kind of paleolithic Waltons.

    Nothing will beat “Land of the Lost,” and sadly, Will Ferrell is slated to star in a $100 million dollar ‘humorous reimaging’ of LotL, which will probably be as bad as similar attempts with everything from “Bewitched” to “Planet of the Apes.” Why does Hollywood mock and devalue my childhood?

  6. There is now a phenomenom called “The Robby Rist Factor,” in which the replacement guy kills the show.

    I find it highly ironic that the British COUPLING was canceled after its final season on the BBC, which replaced lovable Welsh goofball Jeff Murdoch with a clone named…


    Coincidence? I don’t think so. The dude was Robby Rist with a wig and a Welsh accent.

  7. When we went to Bubonicon this summer we stayed at my sister’s house one night. She had Michelle, Sam and I sleeping in my niece’s room, which was very comfortable except… Every flat surface held a poster of Hannah Montana. Imagine waking up at night at seeing by the light of the stars a hundred of the same bland, pretty, juvenile girl’s face staring at you with a dazzling smile. All those teeth. Brrrrr.

  8. At least Hannah Montana hasn’t popped out a few unwanted children or been caught on film without her undies. So far, anyway …

    Oh, and I just want to publicly thank the parents who are indulging their children with crazily overpriced tickets for making me feel like a superior parent.

  9. My wife and I have been systematically buying the shows we appreciated way back when, so our children (when we have some) will have the opportunity to watch decent programming.

  10. Ya I’m with you on this. I posted a few months ago about the evils of The Disney Channel and all the silly drama shows that are on. My daughter watches some of these shows but she knows the minute she starts acting like one one of these Disney icons dad will promptly disassemble the TV.
    But who says TV in the 70’s was the dark ages. We had great shows like….Ummm…
    Mork from Ork. and The Night Stalker and Creature Features!!
    But even those shows were kind of geared towards adults. Shows geared towards teens and preteens it seems was a result of the 80’s. You know, Full House, and Saved By The Bell kind of shows.

  11. And I’m thankful to you, John, for helping me procrastinate on the freelance project I have that’s due tomorrow!

    All praise YouTube and its time-sucking superpowers . . .

  12. spacejock – Simon Haynes is the author of four Hal Spacejock novels, a number of articles on writing and publishing, and several short stories, one of which collected an Aurealis Award in 2001. He divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with the occasional round of golf thrown in for a laugh. Born in the UK and raised in the south of Spain, Simon emigrated to Australia with his family in 1983. He's a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and lives in Perth with his wife and two children.
    Simon Haynes

    AEM: I’ve been doing that with books since my eldest daughter was a 3mm blip. By the time she was born her nursery was wall-to-wall shelving crammed with old faves.

    I’ve had some luck with TV, too. Both our kids adore BlackAdder, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, etc, etc. (You mean there was some other childrens’ programming I was unaware of?)

  13. Yes, there’s nothing like having your second grader draw a detailed rendition of the Black Knight, complete with spurting blood and quoted dialogue to make you proud. That little beauty was on the fridge for months.

  14. Does Hannah Montana vacillate over whether or not to tell the boy in her life that she’s a rock star? Is there a rival band of rockers with punk hair styles? Is there a music video every episode?

    (Even if Athena suddenly evinced an interest in Hannah Montana, I wouldn’t worry. I was into Jem as a kid, and there was no lasting trouble there….okay, you’d be right to worry.)

  15. Simon Haynes: While my wife doesn’t love British comedy like I do, I made sure to have BlackAdder, and am working on the rest. Luckily for us, on the book front, my wife is a Speech-Language Pathologist, so she HAS to buy kiddie books. Thousands of books later, Go Dog Go still remains a favorite. Since I made sure my parents saved my old books, we’ll have a nice library ready to go. Although I’ll have to learn how to V-Chip so-called kiddie programming…

  16. True story:

    I started a little indie record label in 1991. The first band I signed, Wonderboy, was Robbie Rist’s band, one of the early highlights of the LA power pop boom. Wonderboy had everything I wanted in a band – great songs, great playing, smart fun lyrics.

    I had the privilege of releasing three Wonderboy albums (despite my relentless pleas, I didn’t get to put out the Missing Fourth Album, Hero Isle), and to this day they’re three of my favorite albums ever. (The All Music Guide totally got Napoleon Blown Apart.) All three discs are still available at Amazon for very cheap, and they’ve still got the free audio samples up. (None of this benefits me; I transferred the remaining inventory and rights back to the band when I shut down the label in 2004.) Lyrics are still up at the appallingly ugly Racer Records site.

    As an adult, Robbie is incredibly smart, funny, charismatic, and sweet. (Not the kind of sweet that would get in the way of making a rock’n’roll slasher film like Stump the Band, though – the other kind of sweet.)

    Getting to know amazing, wonderful people like Robbie was the best part of being an evil record weasel.

  17. Fortunately, I was 19 at the time that this shining turd example of 70’s pop culture came out, so I completely missed this one. At 19, I was spending all of my Saturday mornings sleeping off the effects of Friday night.

    I do thank you, however, for the word “vomitrociousness.” It’s been added to my Firefox spell check dictionary.

  18. spacejock – Simon Haynes is the author of four Hal Spacejock novels, a number of articles on writing and publishing, and several short stories, one of which collected an Aurealis Award in 2001. He divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with the occasional round of golf thrown in for a laugh. Born in the UK and raised in the south of Spain, Simon emigrated to Australia with his family in 1983. He's a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and lives in Perth with his wife and two children.
    Simon Haynes

    AEM: We emigrated to Australia when I was 15 (and before that, to Spain when I was eight) and both times I had to abandon all my beloved books & comics. Talk about heart-wrenching pain.
    Still, thanks to the wonders of eBay and second hand shops, I’ve managed to collect many of the books and comics I had as a kid. Oh, and about ten times more I didn’t have, just for good luck.
    What can I say? Nostalgia is an expensive hobby.

  19. Simon: I shudder at your story, and can only imagine the pain you went through.

    Does Australia still have many second hand shops? It seems that they’re a dying breed here thanks to the internet, at least in the Northeast US… Very sad.

  20. Robbie Rist at least went on to a bit more work. Those poor actor/models who had to play InBetweenJohn didn’t even have lines!

  21. I give you this: Camelopardis!

    “Space Academy” is out on DVD? Woo-hoo! Even better, the link indicates that “Jason of Star Command” is slated to follow (Warp dragons? Oh noes!), and that “Ark II” is already out.

    I have invested “Ark II” with a warm nostalgic glow in my imperfect memory. I mean, environmental degradation provoking the global collapse of civilization? A team of rationalists who have co-opted Biblical terminology going around trying to drag people out of their benighted superstitions? An (admittedly irritating) chimpanzee named Adam? And all in a Saturday morning show for kids. What magnficent bastards. Plus: jetpack. Even BJLJ would have been improved by more jetpack.

  22. Our girls watch all those shows — the modern ones, that is (well, the ones on TV in Canada — I never heard of iCarly, and they don’t like Drake and Josh). I have been in the room for many hours of them. They will occasionally have a funny line or scene…not every episode, but it does happen. Not unlike the stuff I watched as a kid, actually, except those were supposed to be for grown-ups.

    $2000 concert tickets are, however, Right Out. I’d probably let them go if they could get in for free.

  23. Drake&Josh, iCarly, Suite Life, etc actually remind me more of the late 80’s on ABC than anything else. I’m pretty sure that the word “zany” and the phrase “they have adventures” figured in the pitches. With only slight modifications you could take any of the scripts for these shows, and you’d have an episode of Perfect Strangers, Full House, or Family Matters.

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