I caught this from retrospace, my favorite nostalgia blog. I don’t watch a lot of television except food shows to hunt down fodder for the Greasy Spoons column, and a few cable series. And Lost, of course. I’m not made of stone! So most of these characters are ancient, but I remember them all well and would like to honor their contribution to my formative years.
Yup, Dad on Good Times. I’ve written about him a few times. The man has presence. He’s a bit scary and intense, so much that in Coming to America (full review) they gave him a Cosby sweater and glasses so James Earl Jones would be the imperious one! He was funny, but you never knew if he was gonna whup your ass if you stepped out of line. The perfect father figure for the ’70s, when that was still allowed.
You can’t be from New Jersey and not like Uncle Floyd! The man’s an institution. Floyd Vivino’s corny, cheesy show on local access was an ’80s staple, with crazy musical numbers and guests- including the Ramones, among countless others- and characters such as Eddie Meatball, and Oogie the hand puppet. He inspired me to be wacky, because he didn’t care what people thought, and he made it to TV! He still performs at lounges, and this reminds me I need to drag Firecracker to one.
The Incredible Hulk
I wanted to be the Hulk’s sidekick, Scrappy Hulk.
I liked him best the way Lou Ferrigno played him. The smoldering hulk from the comics? Bah. Lou’s Hulk was more of a giant baby, gentle to the weak and unmerciful to the cruel. I still want to grow up to be the incredible hulk someday, I’m just waiting for technology to pelt me with gamma rays and allow it.
Shirl from What’s Happening?! was the best. Sure Raj, Duwayne and Re-Run were funny, but mean ol’ Shirl could cut them off at the knees with a single outburst. I had the luck to see her perform at a comedy club at the Mall of America before she died, and she was still funny as hell.
My grandfather, who I called “Abby” because he used to say “Yabba Dabba Do” to me as a little kid, looked a lot like ol’ Arch. And he was just as grumpy. All in the Family was one of the most groundbreaking TV shows, and by making this grumpy old bigot the lovable misguided Falstaff of blue collar America, they helped make the world a better place.
Dorothy from the Golden Girls
Bea Arthur recently passed away, but she was part of the popular culture thanks to her acerbic wit and tough attitude which began as “Maude,” one of many spinoffs of “All in the Family,” but was solidified in “The Golden Girls.” Who’da thunk a sit-com about a bunch of retirees would be so funny? All four of these gals were hilarious, but Dorothy was the best. She made the show. And she reminded me of my grandmother, who wasn’t as tall, but had the same attitude.
The Carol Burnett Show was one of the great skit shows of the ’70s and ’80s, and one of the best characters to come out of it was “Mama,” another nasty old woman. Mama’s Place was a great spinoff, with Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett showing up as her hapless children.
Who wouldn’t want a car this cool? Though I never watched St. Elsewhere, where the voice of KITT was revealed, I’d still love to have my car or GPS talk in his calming voice. His aloof attitude and subtle humor made Hoff’s cluelessness tolerable. My Dad had a Firebird, so my ’80s fantasies of being Knight Rider were fulfilled every time we drove to Chuck E. Cheese.
John Peter McAllister, aka The Master
Lee Van Cleef as a ninja master? Damn right. Angel Eyes and Colonel Hawk combined to be one grey-haired bad-ass mofo. I think my Dad was happy that a balding gray-haired old dude could still kick ass, so we watched this a lot. Ninjas were big in the ’80s, with the awful Enter the Ninja movies. Sho Kosugi was everywhere. We got in trouble for bringing throwing stars to school, which our Junior High Principal (who looked a lot like Milhouse’s Dad) called “Weapons of Death.”
Old Soupy was a weird children’s show host. On Little Steven’s Underground Garage on satellite, they often play one of many novelty hits he sang, “Do the Mouse (yeah),” an infectious little tune that makes as much sense as his show did. He got in trouble for joking that kids should go into their parents room and mail him all the green pieces of paper they found, but his show attracted all sorts of guests, including Alice Cooper:
So if you read this, consider yourself tagged. Who are your favorites, and why? Put ’em on your blog or do it on facebook.