With the help of his young assistants, Mr. Wizard starts each episode with a demonstration that at first glance should be impossible, but is actually based firmly on basic scientific ... See full summary »
Sixty-five episodes of this syndicated show were produced in 1990 and 1992. The shows featured children in physical competition using unusual equipment, e.g., go-carts, tennis guns, et ... See full summary »
You take a look at kids' television today, and it's amazing that this show saw the light of day. Consider the following aspects of "You Can't Do That On Television"....
Kids are chained up and put in front of a firing squad in a third
world country. They usually trick their captor into getting shot himself, but occasionally the kids themselves end up being fired upon. Today, the show would be criticized for depicting violence against children, as well as perpetuating negative stereotypes against foreigners.
"Ross", the supposed director of the show, tortures the kids and
treats them as slave labor. Today, the show would be attacked for glorifying exploitation of children.
Blip, the owner of the local arcade, finds whatever ways he can to
cheat the video-game obsessed youth that frequent his business. Today, the show would be protested for making light of adults cheating children out of money.
The "family" scenes depict parents as lazy, poor role models, or just
plain cruel. Today, the show would be boycotted for making a joke of dysfunctional families.
The two most frequently featured female characters (Moose and Lisa)
are constantly taunted about their weight. This is despite the fact that, while not thin, neither girl is really all that fat. Today, parents would fear the show could cause eating disorders.
Even the theme show of the song depicts children being ground up into
hamburger meat (or is it hot dog meat -- I forget). I won't even touch this one! While outrageous shows depicting children exist today (i.e. "South Park"), these are aimed at ADULTS, and are given TV-MA ratings. You Can't Do That On Television was aimed at (and watched almost exclusively by) kids. That's the amazing part. You'll never see another kids show like it again.
This wasn't a show with educational or cultural value. It had value in other ways, though, which are harder to quantify.
It was funny and entertaining. It was outrageous enough to be interesting, but never so over-the-top to where it could be considered a true danger to anyone. I don't know anyone who had nightmares about being in front of a South American firing squad. Somehow we all got the sick humor in that, and didn't really see it as real violence.
The kids seemed real. They weren't beautiful, didn't seem precocious, and in fact all used their real names on the show. Alasdair, Kevin, Lisa, Moose, and the bunch seemed like the rest of us. This made the characters easy to like and relate to.
The show tapped into the minds of kids in the '80s. We were all obsessed with arcades, yet all knew the pain of losing quarters in malfunctioning games with "no refunds". We all dealt with controlling and irrational teachers, difficult parents, and incompetent/obnoxious bus drivers.
The show wasn't brilliantly written or produced, but it was fun, and it grew on you over time. Too often growing up I found that kids' shows were talking down to me, and I didn't like it. This was one show that wasn't guilty of that, and set out to entertain me, rather than preach to me or teach me a lesson. I didn't realize it back then, but that was perhaps the aspect of it that I appreciated the most.
Sadly, children's fare of today is over-scrutinized, and any program that can be deemed a bad influence is deepsixed. Just the weight jokes alone would put this show in the 2005 trash can. The fact that we have gotten to this point is indeed a tragedy.
Les Lye did a fine job with all of the different characters he played. I remember being amazed as a kid when I realized that he played every single adult character on the show. He's 80 years old now -- can you believe it?
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