The other day I heard a reference to “H.R. Pufnstuf”. H.R. Pufnstuf was a children’s show created by Sid and Marty Krofft which originally aired from 1969 through the early 1970s (although there was only one season which was re-televised a lot). H.R. Pufnstuf is the anthropomorphic dragon character who is the Mayor of Living Island on the show. Everything on the island was alive including inanimate objects. Other characters on the show included a little boy named Jimmy who was stranded on Living Island, a magical talking flute named Freddy which Jimmy possesses and plays, and a witch called Witchiepoo who wants to steal the flute from Jimmy. So, Jimmy played a magical flute and Withchiepoo was always trying to steal his flute? What?
Some childhood TV shows seem to be viewed differently with age.
Since the show premiered in 1969, there are some counter culture (https://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2003/05/27/2926/) interpretations related to H.R. Pufnstuf. For example, “Pufnstuf” is similar to the term “puffing stuff” which apparently (I am shocked to say) is a reference to smoking marijuana and the “H.R.” has been interpreted to mean “hand rolled”. The H.R. Pufnstuf character even looks somewhat like a cannabis bud. Marty Krofft has always denied the influence of marijuana on their creative work, saying “You can’t do this kind of work stoned,” (it is not clear to me why not?) and claiming that H.R. merely stands for “Royal Highness” backwards (which somebody thought of when they weren’t smoking marijuana?).
One of my favorite childhood cartoons was Scooby Doo which was first produced in 1969 and also has its own counter culture references.
Scooby’s full name is Scooby “Doobie” Doo. Scooby’s owner, Shaggy, is an obvious stoner in both his grungy goatee appearance and given his never-ending appetite for munchies. There is also a theory that “Scooby snacks” are hash brownies because when Shaggy and Scooby eat “Scooby snacks” they become more courageous and can confront the ghost. And only Shaggy can understand what Scooby Doo is saying. They even drive around in the back of a psychedelic “Mystery Van”. I wonder why I never put this all together when I was only 8 years old?
I can’t believe that as a child I was unconsciously being influenced by drug-influenced children’s TV programming. Now I wonder what other TV programs that I watched as a child had hidden themes?
For example, when I used to watch Sesame Street I never thought there was anything odd about Bert and Ernie living together. Seriously, it’s so obvious that they are just really good friends…right? Oh yeah, I get it now…they are gay. Wow, I also didn’t see that one when I was 8. Also, my favorite character on Sesame Street has always been the Cookie Monster, but now I realize that the Cookie Monster has a really unhealthy diet and a binge eating disorder. But it is still uncanny the way we both eat our cookies. Cookies good!
One of my other favorite childhood cartoons is The Jetsons. The Jetsons originally premiered in 1962 for only one season (but was re-booted in 1985-1987) and was the first show to be broadcast in color on the ABC network. The Jetsons was cancelled after the first year because less than 3% of households had color televisions in 1962. The Jetsons took place in the year 2062.
Astro (the dog on The Jetsons) and Scooby Doo are both great Danes and were voiced by the same actor. In 1986 The Jetson’s theme song reached #9 on the Billboard Charts. There’s a theory that The Flintstones and The Jetsons coexist in the same era with the Jetsons living high above the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Flintstones on the ground below. Yes, people actually believe this. And by “people” I don’t mean me. There’s even an episode of The Jetsons where Elroy is watching an episode of The Flintstones on his wristwatch. Or, was he watching them in real time on his wristwatch camera?
Another childhood TV show favorite of mine was Gilligan’s Island.
There are several theories about this TV show that mostly involve drug dealing. https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/10-creepy-tv-show-fan-theories10.htm Why would a wealthy man carrying a ton of cash bother taking a “three-hour tour” on a small boat manned by a skipper with a bumbling sidekick? What was a movie star doing there, with all her formal clothes packed for such a short trip? Why did everyone seem to have so many extraneous clothes and supplies for an excursion that should have had them home by lunchtime?
There is also a theory that Gilligan’s Island was a moral lesson. Each of the stranded travelers represented one of the seven deadly sins. Ginger, the actress, represented lust. Mary Ann, looked up to her a little too much and represented envy. The skipper represented both gluttony and wrath. The professor, with his attempts to think his way off the island, is pride. Mr. Howell represented greed and his wife was a reflection of sloth. Gilligan, the devil, always upsets the plans to escape the island. It always seems innocent, but he secretly is determined to keep the castaways on the island. https://www.daily-journal.com/opinion/columnists/local/the-secret-meaning-of-gilligans-island-and-other-conspiracy-theories/article_b99eed87-dcd2-523d-a2e2-7738ea6cce74.html
And of course, no discussion of favorite childhood TV shows would be complete without a discussion of The Brady Bunch.
There is a theory that Mike and Carol each killed their first spouses so that they could marry each other (and have a total of 6 children to raise instead of just 3 each?). OK, sounds like an M. Knight Shyamalan plot.
So let’s review what I have learned from my favorite childhood TV shows:
- Marijuana inspires children TV programming creativity
- 2 male puppets living together are “just really good friends”
- Scooby Doo and Astro are the same dog
- Gilligan is the devil
- The Brady kids had no grandparents and their parents were murderers
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