Wednesday, March 20, 2013

If (according to last week's review) HONG KONG PHOOEY reminded me of loading up on MSG-laden cans of Campbell's Chicken 'n Dumplings Soup (another adolescent lunchtime favorite) on dullsville Saturday mornings, then INSIDE/OUT brings back hefty memories of rainy days off from school (whether sick or otherwise) when there was nothing better to do than watch the local PBS station because it was either that or some sissy soap opera or game show that I wasn't quite inna mood for. In fact INSIDE/OUT, along with RIPPLES, I NEED TO READ, THE MATH FACTORY and COVER TO COVER, hold a strange nostalgic grip on me if only because these were some of the first PBS shows I ever saw when the local "educational" station went on the air in 1973, and although these programs were designed for classroom viewing and were obviously way below my mental capacities I liked watching 'em the same way aging drunks used to load up on cheap wine and glom MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD! After all, they were so cheezy in their own early-seventies muttonchops and striped pants way and thus entertaining for that fact alone, and throughout the eighties and into the early-nineties these shows were way more attuned to my own sense of seventies trash-ness than any episode of THAT SEVENTIES SHOW ever could be!

Yeah, these low-budget, low-fidelity educational kid shows (which were probably meant to be thrown out along with the battered copies of YOUR WORLD AND YOU that have been vandalized over the years) really do hold up more'n any of us ever thought they would. This is probably because no matter how up-to-date and hipster the shows tried to be, there was still that great bask of WORLD WAR II GENERATION/BABY BOOMER radiation permeating INSIDE/OUT, and even though we sure had more'n our share of hipster teachers and touchy/feely relevance permeating our lives both then and most definitely now it wasn't like the specters of rampant feminism or homosexual liberation were exactly breathing down our necks. Yeah those things were there, but most people with sense knew enough to stay FAR away like they did that part of town where you can see movies for 25 cents in booths which hopefully had working they were smart, y'know?

Depending on your local station's afternoon schedule, INSIDE/OUT would be shown once or twice during the school week. Sometimes it might have even run it Saturday mornings, usually coupled with another fifteen-minute classroom program like BREAD AND BUTTERFLIES filling up the half-hour (this was back when the stations would usually rerun the entire SESAME STREET/ELECTRIC COMPANY/MISTER ROGERS weekly feed on Saturdays from about eight in the morning until seven or so at night). Surprisingly enough, INSIDE/OUT was popular enough that there was even an evening version called something like INSIDE/OUT FOR PARENTS TOO which basically featured the same program that the kiddies saw in school that day padded out by another fifteen minutes of an interview, usually with the child who starred in that particular program and perhaps some psychologist or sociologist in case the kid was starting to talk gibberish. This portion of the program was conducted by failed game show host and DIVORCE COURT reporter Jim Peck, who I believe was actually hosting his own ABC program at the time INSIDE/OUT was first aired around here and still nobody knew who the schmuck was. The memories of staying home from school sick some winter day and watching the original, then watching this half hour take later in the evening somehow sticks in my mind, as if it were one of the benefits of teenage illness since who else in school could have claimed to do the exact same thing! What I was studying that semester in class is a total blank, which only goes to show you where my mind was, is, and hopefully will remain.

So what the heck was this show anyway? Basically INSIDE/OUT presented fifteen-minute dramas which were basically exercises in problem solving, situation handling and other hoo-hahs presenting kids in various stages of behavioral hijinx. Sometimes the particular episode would present a situation where some kid or kids were involved in some form of personal or social turmoil all ending in a cliff-hanger (remember, these shows only lasted fifteen minutes). I'm sure that right after the class viewed the specific episode the teacher would then lead a discussion asking the students what would happen next to the characters involved,  or maybe even "rap" about what the students themselves would do if they were the protagonist and hadda make that crucial decision themselves, probably rolling her eyes at some of the smartass answers she was getting from the usual precocious suspects.

There were a few INSIDE/OUTs that were more or less standard classroom lessons about others, like the one about a visually-impaired gal who was being mainstreamed into a regular class and hadda go through the Helen Keller rigmarole of kids re-arranging the desks, but most all of these shows were created with the intent to get kids stimulated in the brain department and develop decision skills that I'm sure would come in handy-dandy in later life. Take this rather inspiring INSIDE/OUT about a wimpoid weakling who is being taunted by the class bully who could use a few lessons in acting (yeah, so what!) as well as citizenship...

( got taken down because of a copyright hoo-hah brought up by the Agency for Instructional Television!)

Now, I can just see the teacher talking with the class after they view this 'un, just praying that they will all agree that the proper thing to do is for the kid to run and get help for his now busted-up tormentor and then they will all be friends forever and ever. Good thing I wasn't in the class because I woulda told her that I'd just run off and let the kid writhe in agony until he died, and besides that abandoned barn was so far out in the boonies that by the time they did find his body it woulda been decayed beyond belief or better yet picked to the bone by various woodland creatures to the point where whoever found that bully's skeleton coulda sold it to a college for some nifty bucks, even with the busted leg! But then again I was always like that...I remember when I was in third grade we were reading a story about a Chinese boy who wanted to be part of the dragon for a Chinese New Year parade only he was too short. So he gets a knife and...well, before we could turn to the next page to find out what happened the teach asked us kids what he was going to do, and of course I chime in that he's gonna stab himself because that's what alla 'em orientals do when they don't get their way! The truth of the matter was that the kid actually added a few inches to his heels and thus was tall enough to at least be part of the tail, but sheesh, how can you blame a kid who got all of his knowledge of Asian culture from watching that famous Popeye cartoon YOU'RE A SAP MISTER JAP not forgetting that GILLIGAN'S ISLAND episode featuring Vito Scotti as a Japanese sailor who didn't know that the war was over???

Here's another INSIDE/OUT episode for you, one that features a kid show spoof that is so surreal that it might have even ended up in THE GROOVE TUBE if if they only threw in some juggins or maybe even a swear word or two:

(yep, copyright infringement got this 'un pulled off too!)

Yeah, I know that this particular local kiddie tee-vee show take off is about as accurate as the one MAD did back in the mid-sixties but in all honesty I wouldn't mind having an Iron Whirlygig myself! On a more serious note, how about the one about the two kids in school who are having such a rough time of it at home and want to make a break for it that very evening?

(see above)

All I gotta say to you young lads is hey, I'm sure there will be many men out there who are more than willing to take care of you, if you know what I mean... But then again I woulda been siding with the kid who had the bickering mom 'n dad to force the other one with the sensitive hippie parents to go along with him. I mean, those hippie parent types might have been all skushgush sympathetico and all, but they were touchy-feely hippies which is one good reason for that boy to vamoose! Maybe the kids coulda just stayed with the bickering parents which woulda been fun at least for 'em watching them jeeters fight to the death and knock each other out!

(And given that this particular episode was made at KETC in St. Louis Missouri I wonder if that incidental and abstract sax and flute music used was made by somebody from the BAG, perhaps even Luther Thomas himself???) one or two of these then slap on some Rocket From The Tombs and I'll tell ya, it's just like you're re-living a hotcha day in 1975 and all you have to look forward to is ineffectual government, inflation, unemployment and (best of all!) an underground rock scene that seems custom made for your own values and ideals! And hey, if you find that urge to switch over to channel 61 to see what's happening on MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY just keep telling yourself "it's educational..."

1 comment:

django said...

I don't know if this show was aired in Denver, as I have absolutely NO memory of it.
Speaking of DIVORCE COURT, I really have a desire to re-watch the original 60's version with Judge "Voltaire Perkins" (remember HIM?), where you'd occasionally see some B-movie/TV/exploitation film actor in a small role, knowing that he/she was REALLY down on his/her luck. I would not be surprised to see, say, Alex Rocco or Charles Napier on an episode. That was my favorite show as a child, along with PERRY MASON and GREEN ACRES. Wonder what vault/warehouse all the thousands of hours of 60's DIVORCE COURT are sitting in? Remember the hushed tones of the narrator, so as not to disrupt the "dignity" of the courtroom? If only some grey market seller on I-Offer would offer that? However, I don't know if it's ever been in syndication after the original run.....