/Answers: Our Favorite Childhood TV Shows

Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this edition, tying in with the release of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, we ask, “What are your favorite childhood TV shows?”

Ethan Anderton – Doug

You won’t find a better coming of age cartoon for kids coming into their teenage years than Nickelodeon’s original iteration of Doug (not ABC’s version that completely ruined the spirit of the show, not to mention gave the characters unnecessary makeovers). Doug Funnie (voiced by Futurama‘s Billy West) is your average kids who starts off the series by moving to a new town. From then on, he has to navigate the world of adolescence, deal with his melodramatic sister Judy, pine after his school crush Patty Mayonnaise, take care of his spoiled dog Porkchop, hang out with his friend Skeeter, avoid the school bully Roger Klotz, and deal with his neighbor Mr. Dink and his wild techno purchases. And he documents it all in his journal.

What I loved about Doug as a kid was that he was dealing with a lot of the issues I was finding myself tackling throughout middle school and even into high school. Even more fun was the imagination Doug employed to work through these situations, albeit in a fantastical sort of way through fictional versions of himself like the secret agent Smash Adams, the adventurer Durango Doug, the detective The Chameleon, and of course, the superhero Quailman. They were all manufactured as ways of Doug dealing with the stresses of growing up.

Doug still stands as the perfect show for kids to watch as they become teenagers. It may not have some of the struggles that kids have today, with internet bullying and cell phones being so prominent, but the themes in the show are universal and can be applied to modern day adolescence easily. It’s a show that I can’t wait for my hypothetical kids to watch one day.

Vanessa Bogart – Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story… the tale of the kids show that inspired a generation of horror nerds. The same audiences that are fueling the success of shows like American Horror Story, Black Mirror, and Channel Zero grew up watching Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Oh, how I longed to be a member of the Midnight Society. Growing up with older brothers in a Halloween and horror loving household, I was exposed to slasher films at a very young age. I loved horror even as a small child, but when the lights went out, I was anxious. I longed for the comfort of sleep away from my fears of what was under the bed, only to be betrayed by my nightmares. But like knowing that next piece Halloween candy will make you sick, and still not being able to resist, I couldn’t stop watching.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? was my most comforting source of horror. It was the essence of horror, the subject matter, the darkness, but I  could watch it free from any worry that I would have nightmares for a week. The tales of the Midnight Society never did me wrong. It was the goldilocks of horror for me. It scratched the itch, but it was the only thing that didn’t make me afraid of the dark.

Matt Donato – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Sorry, no monumental surprises or discoveries for you this week. Little Donato loved his Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. What kid could resist an equal balance of martial arts action, interstellar fantasy and costumed monsters packed into episodic tales? After school it was the same mad dash either to my house or my neighbor’s (the same one who corrupted me with Independence Day). Did we ever miss an episode? Not on Zordon’s shimmery ghost face.

I owned all the mass-produced accompaniments. The damn near impossible Super Nintendo video game. The gloves with implanted buttons so every time you chopped or punched, a “whoosh” noise rang out loud. The action figures, VHS tapes, most likely underwear because who are we joking, ya boy lived in his graphic Fruit of the Looms. Power Rangers was my daily escape from life’s problems (re: homework and chores) by way of Putty Patroller beatdowns and Rita Repulsa’s failed attempts to defeat the Rangers.

I loved how in each episode a new big-boss villain could be molded from clay and spit unto the world, like a Cracker Jack prize with malicious intent. Pudgy Pig. Gnarly Gnome. Chunky Chicken. Every viewing brought a new anarchistic alliteration in the form of malicious gladiator swines to, um, whatever predatory playground nightmare Mr. Ticklesneezer was, but the Rangers never backed down. Hoisting each other into the air and comboing the hell out of whoever/whatever dared challenge Earth’s guard. Plus who could hate Alpha 5! Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi and stuff!

Wow, I was easy to distract in my early years.

I didn’t stick around for the billion offshoots like Wild Force into Dino Thunder – they even have an online show where ex-cast and guests play a D&D type Power Rangers tabletop game and you watch – but I’ll never forget my time spent with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Nothing but respect for my generic taste in childhood entertainment. (For the record, I was a Blue Ranger guy.)

Hoai-Tran Bui: Sailor Moon

I stumbled upon my favorite childhood TV show almost by accident. My family didn’t have cable as a kid, and Sailor Moon only aired during Cartoon Network’s Toonami block while I was growing up. So it was only when my older cousin was babysitting me at her house that I unearthed VHS tapes that she had recorded of old Sailor Moon episodes. It was the episode where Serena was forced to transform into Sailor Moon in front of her love interest Darien when their lives are threatened by an evil supernatural minion, Zoisite. It was scene that stirred something in me, whether it was the seeds of female empowerment or a love of cheesy dialogue I couldn’t tell. But I was enraptured.

My cousin noticed how much I loved the episode and she started lending me her other episodes — all out of order, which made the convoluted story even more confusing, but I didn’t care. I was enamored with this show about a high school girl who suddenly is given the power to save the universe, but instead spends most of her battles crying and panicking over being attacked. I loved how Serena quickly accumulated a close group of friends, each vastly different in personality, attitude, and of course fashion (I aspired to be the hotheaded and confident Raye who wore a pair of killer heels with her outfit, but connected more with the shy, tech-savvy Amy and her sensible boots). I swooned over the (literally) dapper Tuxedo Mask, who proved to be absolutely useless in battle.

My cousin became my lifeline — my dealer, as it were. She would record new episodes of Sailor Moon every week and I would devour them on VHS, dreaming about becoming a sailor soldier who could fight evil by moonlight and win love by daylight. Half my dreams (and nightmares) started consisting of Sailor Moon storylines. I started buying all the Sailor Moon-related merchandise I could find — I think I still have her Moon Stick wand somewhere, though it’s probably long stopped lighting up by now. I dressed up as Sailor Moon for Halloween countless times.

I can credit that early obsession with Sailor Moon for introducing me to the rich world of anime, and to an extent, Japanese dramas. My first Japanese drama was a super low-budget live-action version of Sailor Moon that spanned 50 episodes, and yes, I watched them all. I would rewatch all of Sailor Moon properly, in the original Japanese with English subtitles, years later when I was in high school, and be astonished at how well it held up. But I have a weird affection for that cheesy, cringeworthy English dub that I watched on grainy VHS copies all those years ago. They remind me of when I thought I could grow up to be a super soldier who could save the world — no matter what my grades were in school, or how bad I was at fighting. As long as my heart was strong enough, I could totally be Sailor Moon.

Chris Evangelista – Unsolved Mysteries

When I think of my “favorite childhood show”, what comes to mind isn’t something geared towards kids, or even teens. Instead, I immediately conjure up memories of Unsolved Mysteries, the TV show in which Robert Stack would stroll out of the fog in a trench coat and scare the shit out of me with his smooth voice. The majority of Unsolved Mysteries episodes were about unsolved murders, or other various crimes. But the episodes I loved were about the supernatural. Anytime the show focused on ghosts, or aliens, or other strange phenomenon, I was thrilled. There was nothing I loved more as a child than listening to Robert Stack narrate over a recreation featuring some god-awful ghost special effects. I probably shouldn’t have been watching the show at such a young age, because I remember several occasions where an episode would end and I would be suddenly seized with terror. Terror at the thought of looking out one of our darkened living room windows (the show was always on at night) and seeing some sort of monstrosity out there. Or maybe even seeing Robert Stack himself, standing underneath a street light, whispering into the wind: “Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.”

Cool Posts From Around the Web: