December 10, 2004
A little TV nostalgia

The Mickey Mouse Club is being released on DVD. Reviewer Bruce Westbrook is not impressed.

Mouse Club
discs have the first five shows from 1955, along with featurettes and intros by film critic Leonard Maltin. Sounding like he misses Ovaltine, Maltin describes being among baby boomers who first lapped up Walt Disney's after-school fare in the '50s.

Though Maltin exalts the show's innocent fun, he also prepares viewers for uncomfortable time-warp elements.

One is what he calls "a '50s approach to gender-appropriate jobs." This occurs in "What I Want to Be," a segment inspiring boys to be airline pilots and girls to be hostesses. Plugging TWA, it's also as bloated with product-placement as The Apprentice.

Elsewhere, two Cub Scouts take an "air boat" ride through the Florida Everglades with an American Indian whose tribe is said to be still at war with the federal government. The irony of him ferrying uniformed Anglo kids seems lost on the narrator.


The in-studio entertainment isn't much better. Even Maltin admits it "may seem quaint to children today." Well, duh. In fact, even baby boomers may stumble over its time-trips.

Wearing goofy Mickey hats that were popular at the time, the fresh-faced Mouseketeers are a diversity-challenged bunch, and the poor things desperately need a jolt of the liberating rock 'n' roll soon to engulf their generation. Here, they're stuck doing tap-dances to the kind of songs deemed "swinging" by their elders.

In sketches and scripted repartee, they also act broadly and pointedly for the new medium of television, which doesn't require projecting to the back rows.


Yet the cast didn't do all that much, with the show often veering from their vaudevillian bits to filmed features. These included serialized adventures, kid-geared travelogue "newsreels" and, like Pee-wee's Playhouse, vintage cartoons introduced with great fanfare.

I'm about a generation too young for this show, but I recall it being rerun on afternoon TV when I was a kid, and this is more or less as I remember it. By far, the cartoons were the best part, but they never showed more than one of them, and sometimes they skipped them altogether. And to this day, I don't understand the fascination with Annette Funicello.

Elsewhere, did you know that the classic 70s public TV kids show Zoom had been revived? I didn't. Unfortunately, that revival has now been axed.

WGBH-TV has decided to pull the plug on its long-running children's television show Zoom.

The once-pioneering interactive series made by, for and about children is ending production with its 2005 season, the victim of an increasingly competitive children's programming market and a young audience restless for innovative TV offerings, says Kate Taylor, the show's executive director.

"Kids are looking for the next new thing," Taylor said. "The competition is always putting out new shows and so is PBS, because kids want that."

The final season, which was taped over the summer, will air April through June of next year.


The show was based on the original WGBH Zoom series that ran for seven seasons on public television in the 1970s. It began a second run in 1999 in a new format at a time when children's programming was primarily animated.

OK, I admit it - I was a big fan of the original Zoom. Those weird striped turtleneck shirts, that arm-twisty thing that one girl could do (which I can do but Tiffany can't, not that I'd ever lord it over her or anything), the invitations to "Try This At Home!", and of course their famous mailing address for sending show ideas. It's been said that you can tell a person of my generation by whether or not they can recite the preamble to the Constitution without singing it. The same is true for giving the ZIP code 02134. You know who you are and you know what I mean, so all together now: "OOOOOH, two OOOOOONE, three FOOOOOUR - send it to ZOOM!"

Ahem. May I suggest to whomever may be listening that this would be a fine thing to give the DVD treatment to? There's apparently a mostly out-of-print Best Of video, but surely we can do better than that. Right?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2004 to TV and movies | TrackBack

A few thoughts:

1. Regarding Annette Funicello: Well, supposedly she was becoming a little too grown up to be a Mouseketeer. In the 1950's that was as racy as it got.

2. Lenoard Maltin also did intros for a box set of Little Rascals films (I have the set), so I'm not surprised to see him do the same thing here.

3. The entire bit should:

Box Three-Five-Ohh.
Boston, Mass
"OOOOOH, two OOOOOONE, three FOOOOOUR - send it to ZOOM!

Note that this was before the two letter state codes, so it appeared as Boston, Mass.

4. Those weird striped turtleneck shirts, that arm-twisty thing that one girl could do (which I can do but Tiffany can't, not that I'd ever lord it over her or anything)

Of course, now that you mentioned this on the Internet, it's possible Tiffany might twist another part of your body around. ;-) Not to mention have you speaking Ubbi-Dubbi on a permanent basis. ;-)

Posted by: William Hughes on December 10, 2004 11:31 AM

I watched and like the original Zoom and my kids watch and like the revived Zoom. But not for much longer, I guess. That's a shame.

Posted by: Anne on December 10, 2004 12:43 PM

you forgot that's Zoom - Zee double O Em

Interjection - Hallelujah yeahhhhhhhh

Posted by: julia on December 10, 2004 1:12 PM

Which reminds me - did you know that the entire Schoolhouse Rock series is now available on DVD?

Posted by: julia on December 10, 2004 1:13 PM

I do not know what Zoom is, but I can sing the Preamble. And I own the Schoolhouse Rock DVD. I loaned it to the 9-year old next door earlier this year to help her learn her times tables.

3, 6, 9. 12, 15, 18. 21, 24, 27. 30.

Posted by: Sue on December 10, 2004 1:19 PM

While we're on the subject of 70s children's television, am I the only person that thinks the Fat Albert movie opening on Christmas Day looks like a bomb?

Posted by: William Hughes on December 10, 2004 1:48 PM

I loved Zoom, too. Some of the musical numbers still go through my head. I'd get a DVD, and given what's being released these days (The complete run of Wacky Races! The complete Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse! The first season of Barney Miller!), I expect it to happen in the next year or two. Anyone have contact info for WGBH to light a fire under them?

Posted by: Chris Quinones on December 10, 2004 2:17 PM

We've got some of the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs. Olivia will be indoctrinated. :-)

(Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse? OMG.)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2004 2:38 PM

Yes folks, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse is available on DVD at for $71.96.

I don't think the entire series cost $71.96 to make.

Now, Chuck, why would you subject your daughter to that subversive Schoolhouse Rock, when there are plenty of 30 minute commercials for toys on TV today? :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on December 10, 2004 2:53 PM

HM is a huge Rocky and Bullwinkle fan now, but on VHS.

I notice that the first season is on DVD now...

Posted by: julia on December 10, 2004 5:06 PM

(Why am I always 2 days late to any topic I'm interested in?)

Speaking of the Mouseketeers, I remember the 70s revival of that show, too. One Lisa Welchel from Plano was on it. She went on to fame as the spoiled yet alluring (to my 14-year-old eyes) vamp on "The Facts of Life." That little adolescent fantasy went right out the window a few weeks back, when she was at the center of the tabasco-sauce-on-the-kid's-tongue-for-saying-dirty-words controversy. Seems her recent parenting tome has made her the darling of conservatives everywhere.

I shoulda known - nothing of lasting good comes from Plano...

Posted by: CrispyShot on December 12, 2004 11:35 AM

Yeah, I remember Lisa Whelchel from back then, too. I was equally disturbed to read about what a nut she is. Alas.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2004 5:09 PM

I'll wait for Northern Exposure Season 3.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on December 15, 2004 3:23 PM