Thomas Wolfe once said, "You can't go home again." If he had had a television, he might also have said, "You can't re-watch TV shows you loved as a kid, because you will discover how much they sucked."
A lot of my favorite programs from my youth, like, "F-Troop", "McHale's Navy" and "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp", to name a few, are pretty hard to watch nowadays. They seemed so great back in their day, but now they seem really lame. The passing of time gave them a gloss in my memory that they did not really possess. Of course, there were shows like "Lost in Space", that even back then I knew were pretty wretched. I loved it anyway, though, so I still enjoy it now. There are other shows, like the original "Mickey Mouse Club" or "Astroboy", that, while I see how awful they are, I can still appreciate for the warm fuzzy feelings I had when I originally watched them.
Sadly, the one show that I loved above all others, the highlight of my Saturday mornings if not my entire childhood, is one of those shows that I can not even enjoy for its nostalgia factor anymore.
When it originally aired, this show had everything I loved: puppets, people in giant puppet costumes, a kid with an English accent and catchy musical numbers. It also had an irresistible premise, at least to me. One day an ordinary boy Jimmy (played by English kid Jack Wild) and his talking golden flute, Freddy are kidnapped by a wicked witch named Witchypoo, and transported to Living Island. The island is so named because everything, trees, houses, even the elements, everything, is alive. The Island is run/ruled over by a friendly dragon, H.R. Pufnstuf, who is also Mayor. Over the course of the series, the friendly citizens of Living Island spend the majority of their time protecting Jimmy and Freddy from Witchypoo, and trying to find a way to get them "home". At least once an episode, they also break into a totally unnecessary, but toe-tappin', musical number.
I realize the above description doesn't exactly sound like must-see-TV. An actual viewing of the series is even worse. As I youngster, I guess I overlooked things like the shoddy production values, hackneyed scripts, Jack Wild''s awful singing voice, and performers whose body language suggests that, rather than happy creatures on a magical adventure, they are hot, sweaty people in uncomfortable puppet suits suffering from heatstroke. I really loved this show.
I wasn't the only one. Despite there being only 17 episodes produced, the series ran for years, and there was even a theatrical feature
made of it (with Mama Cass and Martha Raye in the cast, no less!). To this day, one of my sisters can still sing "I'm a Mechanical Boy",
one of the songs from the show, and, if pressed, my other sister will admit to at one time declaring her ambition to become "Mrs. Jack Wild". The show's
influence wasn't just confined to our house, either. if you troll the Interweb
, you can find the site of a person who has dreams of reviving the show as an animated series
. There has also been talk for years about a big screen adaptation. That is a truly chilling thought for those of us still nursing our wounds from the "Underdog" film a few years ago.
Ah, who am I kidding? I still love ol' Pufnstuf! I even have an action figure of him sitting on my desk as I type this. For that love to continue though, I'll only watch the re-runs in my mind. They're much better that way.
Oh, and for those of you wondering, no, my sister never did become Mrs. Jack Wild.
Labels: H.R. Pufnstuf, Jack Wild