Saturday, April 26, 2008

TV Rebels: Sid and Marty Krofft

The weekly Mini-DVD Review will be preempted today so we can bring you a special TV Rebels essay. As you all know, Solomon's Weekly Rant had its finale last week, so that is no more..but we will continue to have a mini-DVD review on Saturdays. Anyway, for today it is time for our monthly TV Rebels essay! We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...now we have gotten rights to 6 additional essays, so we will be bringing you one each month until at least November! The book is in the works and will be released in 2009.

So without further adieu, we bring you the fifth essay of TV Rebels:

Sid and Marty Krofft: Psychedelic Saturday Mornings
by Lou Orfanella

Wacky witches. Talking flutes. Living hats. Land bound sea monsters. Rock and roll insects. Welcome to the world of puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft, a place where Saturday morning children’s programming was more like a bad acid trip than a day with no school, cozy pajamas, sugary cereal, and endless cartoons.
The Krofft brothers first gained television recognition as costume designers for the 1968 NBC Saturday morning series The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. A production from the Hanna-Barbera animation studio, the program combined live action and animated segments, with the live action being a quartet of life-sized "animal" puppets who performed music and skits between the cartoons. A year later the Kroffts would break new Saturday morning ground with the first of a string of children’s shows that turned the genre upside down.
In September of 1969 NBC premiered the initial episode of H.R. Pufnstuf, a live action series with all of the colorful trappings and visually shocking images of an animated show. Dragon H.R. Pufnstuf is the mayor of Living Island. Young Jimmy, played by Jack Wild, fresh from a starring turn as the Artful Dodger in the Academy Award winning musical Oliver!, is whisked to the island in a storm where he, along with his magic talking flute Freddie is pursued by the evil Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes). Similarities to The Wizard of Oz may or may not be intentional, but at the very least, the Kroffts have drawn frequent accusations of embracing the drug culture of their era in their work, though they have denied such implications as often as Peter, Paul and Mary have done so with "Puff the Magic Dragon." Still for some the surreal inhabitants of Living Island conjure images of the opium that might have been derived from the poppy fields of Oz.
Names like Pufnstuf and Lidsville (a Krofft production for ABC in 1971 about a land where the inhabitants were all talking hats) have been pointed at as euphemisms for marijuana use. Addressing the contention, Marty Krofft says, "There might have been some double meanings there, but that's for the audience to figure out. But some people, they hear the name Pufnstuf and they're immediately thinking about pot. In a way, I think that's what they wanted it to be about" (Martindale 6). Add to the brothers' list of hits 1970's The Bugaloos about an insect rock and roll band, and 1973's Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (a sea monster befriended in captivity by two young boys) and the substance abuse accusations continued to fly. Sid Krofft adds, "A lot of people ask us if we were on drugs when we made these shows...Sometimes I tell them we were high-high on life-because life is the greatest drug there is. But we never, ever, did anything like that. These shows didn’t just come from smoking a little pot" (Martindale 6).
Largely what the Kroffts did was approach Saturday morning programming from a new creative angle. "What made the Kroffts' shows so unique was Their mix of colorful stage props, mesmerizing stories, enchanting musical scores, and a variety of fascinating live-action characters. Their costume designs that placed characters in full-body suits has been one of their most-recognized accomplishments" (Morgan 74).
Everything from PBS's Barney to the McDonaldland characters to stadium mascots may well have been inspired by the weird and way-out creations of Sid and Marty Krofft. Marty explains, "There were people in walk-around suits before Pufnstuf, before we got on, but I don't think anybody had done a whole shoe like that ever before...We were the first ones who took a live-action show and made like a living cartoon of it. That's what we did first" (Martindale 39).

Works Cited
Martindale, David. Pufnstuf & Other Stuff. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998.
Morgan, Bill and Greg Davis. Krofft-mania: Recapturing the magic of Saturday morning TV. Toy Trader. Feb. 2997: 74-77.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, June 24

Raven's Home - "Much Ado About Lunching" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Raven Baxter and her best friend Chelsea, both divorced single mothers, raise their children together in a Chicago apartment. Their lives turn upside down when they realize one of Raven's twins has inherited her ability to see the future.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 20)

Friday, June 24

  • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace/The Millers/Sean Saves the World) - Sean guest hosts a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Julie Andrews (Julie) - Watch Julie on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle/The Louie Show/Raising Miranda) - Bryan appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jeff Goldblum (Search Party) - Jeff is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • D'Arcy Carden (Barry/The Good Place) - D'Arcy appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simples Rules/Ladies Man) - Kaley is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Glen Powell (Scream Queens) - Glen appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ali Wentworth (Nightcap) - Ali is a guest on a repeat of LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Debra Messing (Will & Grace/Ned & Stacey) - Debra talks about her latest project: how self-care can change the world on a repeat of Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
  • Jane Lynch (Angel from Hell) - Jane talks about Funny Girl on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (March-June)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release) Young Rock - Season One The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season One

03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Eight
03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (DVD)
03/15 - Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season
03/15 - The Proud Family - The Complete Original Series - Anniversary Collection
03/22 - The Honeymooners Specials - The Complete Collection
03/29 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
03/29 - Young Rock - Season One
04/05 - Up All Night - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
04/26 - The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy) - The Complete Fourth Season
04/26 - Jackie Gleason TV Treasures - 70th Anniversary Collection (including Honeymooners Rarities)
05/03 - No Activity - Season Three
05/13 - The Donna Reed Show - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Time Life)
05/31 - Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
06/14 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Eleventh Season
06/14 - Hacks - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
06/14 - Rutherford Falls - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
06/21 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season One / Season Two / Season Three (07/26) / Season Four (07/26)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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