Monday, May 26, 2008

Forgotten Television Shows: Volume ??

(Was halfway through this post last week when everything went pear shaped. It’s much too cool a topic to just let lie in my laptop.)

Back to one of my favorite topics…forgotten television shows.

I worry about kids today. Not because they have no sense of decorum and are inheriting a planet without polar bears or an ozone layer. No, it is because they have completely been ignored in the vital category of Saturday morning cartoons. Seriously, have you tried to watch Saturday morning television while hungover recently? Where did all the cartoons go? I’m stuck watching Hannah Montana and that just makes me wonder exactly who decided that mating with Billy Ray Cyrus was a good idea from an evolutionary perspective.

Now back in my day a nine year old, hungover or not, had plenty of options on a Saturday morning. Cartoons that would develop a sense of wonder. Shows that would make us sit spellbound for hours discovering just how to make an accordion out of a radiator or how to set odds on Laff-a-Lympics. But nothing matches the glory that was Thundarr the Barbarian.

Thundarr (and yes, there are two r’s even if spell check doesn’t believe me) had a rather amazing plot. In the future a runaway planet passes between the earth and the moon, ripping the moon in two and causing absolute chaos and destruction of civilization as we know it. How far into the future you might ask? 1994. Yes, even while watching Saturday morning cartoons I was reminded that the world would be destroyed by the time I turned 21. They didn’t coddle us and tell us that we were special. Our entertainment consisted of reminders that destruction was going to reign. It made us tough.

So the story goes that 2000 years after my 21st birthday party ends with the destruction of all mankind Earth has devolved into some strange mix of Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. We have our hero, Thundarr, who seems to be unable to find pants in the future and runs around swinging his sun sword at anything that moves. Typically an evil wizard or some sort of mad scientist (well, really they just have these really bad headaches but diagnosis is also lacking in the future. Thundarr is joined by Princess Ariel whose actual claim to the title of Princess has never been documented. We never meet the king or queen and one would wonder why someone would raise a member of the royal family to be a sorceress who could shoot laser beams from her hands. She also seems to be lacking in the pants department but with much less complaints from the viewing audience.

Of course, the only reason one watched the show was for the third member of the team: Ookla the Mok. Some might consider him to be a low rent Chewbacca. He did happen to be a large, hairy, muscular non-verbal creature who seemed to only exist to help out the human heroes. But he was so much cooler than that. Mainly by the fact that a) it was never explained what a Mok was, b) he was never called just Ookla, it was always Ookla the Mok, and c) Ookla is a really fun name to say when you are nine. He was what nine year old boys love to watch. Some large creature whose only job is to break things. No character development, no love interest, just rampant destruction with a cool name.

How influential was this character on me? More than a decade later when I created a monk character in a role playing game he was named “Ookla the Monk”. That is so cool.

I can’t recall a single plot of this show. I had to have seen every episode though. It was just an escape from the everyday. It might not have been Shakespeare but it sure beats having to watch what is on right now.

The five random CDs…
1) Lyle Lovett “I Love Everybody”
2) Anders Osborne “Which Way to Here”
3) John Wesley Harding “Awake”
4) Ryan Adams “Demolition”
5) Victoria Williams “Water to Drink”

Note: I’ve made the executive decision that the random CDs should be listened to in the car like I originally intended. Since I’m driving a lot less right now it is no longer a guarantee that I will listen to five in a week. So I’ll just update the list as I make it through. For those wondering, in the past 29 months I have listened to 90% of my collection using this method. Not much farther to go.

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