A pre-Halloween glimpse into the twisted mind of Mr. Kieran. #BonVoyage
A pre-Halloween glimpse into the twisted mind of Mr. Kieran. #BonVoyage
Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.
Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free.
CLASSIC RETRO KIDS’ TV ON-THE-CHEAP! by JONATHAN KIERAN
TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: MR. DRESSUP (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 1967-1996)
GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Ernie Coombs (Canada’s answer to Mr. Rogers … only a lot more caffeinated and likely to bounce off the cardboard walls)
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing touches the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for producing tatty but creative kids’ shows that were built to last and rife with mangy-looking puppets suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders! As a bumpkin-child in the woods of upstate New York, I couldn’t wait to fill my impressionable mind with that one-of-a-kind brand of folksy Canadian Crazy that the CBC pumped into our living rooms on a daily basis via programming like The Friendly Giant and the legendary Mr. Dressup.
Mr. Dressup was probably the “King” of cheesy children’s TV, at least for youngsters in our region who depended upon the seemingly limitless pipeline of entertainment thrift utilized by producers just across the border — producers who had to stage a show with nothing but four or five Ping-Pong balls, construction paper, two asbestos oven-mits and maybe a ukulele. The brain-trusts in Toronto knew how to BRING IT! I only wish today’s bloated and shiftless TV execs could do in an hour with their $9 million budgets what Mr. Dressup’s team obviously did in 10 minutes for a few bucks and a six-pack of Carling-O’Keefe.
Mr. Dressup ran daily from 1967-1996, amassing over 4,000 episodes packed with wanton childishness. That was the whole point! Like most children’s TV programs since the days of Caesar and Cleopatra, the setting and context of the actual characters on Mr. Dressup lacked verisimilitude. Wait. Scratch that. The set-up made absolutely no freakin’ sense whatsoever. First of all, you had a loner-type adult person with no fashion-sense and no apparent prospects for marriage (Mr. Dressup) living in a tiny house crammed with semi-magical knick knacks and strange outfits that were kept in something called a “Tickle Trunk” while, out in the back yard, a child biologically unrelated to the adult lived in a tree.
On the Mr. Dressup show, the treehouse-dwelling child was a freckled puppet named “Casey”. Casey looked like an unfinished Lady Elaine Fairchilde marionette stolen from the Mr. Rogers set, fitted with a blond page-boy wig and wrapped in a tea-cozy. A parade of disheveled, disoriented and equally unrelated puppet-people streamed constantly through the door of the little house to visit the adult loner and the boy he kept in the backyard tree. This highly unusual and improbable “family unit” was unexplained and therefore taken for granted by the viewing public at the time. We called it “the magic of children’s television.”
Today they call it “a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order:SVU.”
But that’s how kids’ programming rolled in the days before unseen parents allowed their irritating real-life children to play in the park unsupervised with an obese purple dinosaur on Zoloft that taught them to chant endless verses of black magic composed by Lucifer, Lord of Hell.
In terms of plot, the Mr. Dressup show was rather formulaic and predictable, which was an attribute beneficial to a developing child’s mind, I believe. That whole dynamic has certainly changed. Mr. Dressup, ever-exuberant in his bow-tie and suspenders, would greet his friends in TV Land and prepare them for a morning of storytelling that always involved the retrieval of some indicative costume from the Tickle Trunk. The costume was usually made out of colored gauze, tinfoil and discarded candy wrappers, but we didn’t care, as kids. Sometimes, to our horror, the Tickle Trunk wouldn’t even open, forcing Mr. Dressup to actually “coochie-coo” the damn thing until it coughed-up the goods. That trunk was a coy little tramp.
Once Mr. Dressup donned the Kleenex cape or the fake beard made out of cotton yanked from a thousand Q-tips, he would tell some brief fairy tale that sent us all off to Imagination Town in our pea brains. After that it was time to head out into the backyard for a visit with Casey in the treehouse. The best part about Casey was actually his constant companion, Finnegan the Dog, who looked like an unlaundered sailor’s sock after a nine-month tour of duty. Finnegan the Dog was great because he was entirely mute. Couldn’t bark a note. Couldn’t growl. Couldn’t talk. He was the only silent creature of Irish extraction I ever saw. Mr. Dressup or Casey would talk to Finnegan or ask his opinion about something and the puppeteer would merely make Finnegan’s “mouth” move silently and he would whisper the answer in Casey’s ear. Casey would then translate/interpret Finnegan’s response. He was the original Dog-Whisperer, that Casey.
An assortment of guests would soon follow. An alligator-puppet cleverly named “Alligator” might drop by to yammer-on about God-Knows-What and at least once a week you could count on a visit from Aunt Bird, who was the show’s requisite “dazed and confused” elderly puppet. Poor Aunt Bird never made much sense, always looked like she had possibly been mauled in an alley by Finnegan the Dog’s more aggressive canine relations, and she was a definite candidate for Lady Rogaine or whatever it is they recommend for women with unsightly bald patches. Sometimes in tow with Aunt Bird was her niece, Miss Biz, a bug-eyed specimen who was as neurotic and disconnected as Elaine Stritch. Miss Biz, with only about a dozen strands of pink, wispy boa-feathers protruding from her lumpy head as “hair” clearly inherited the Female-Pattern Baldness gene from her dizzy aunt. I always figured there must’ve been an ostrich or maybe a vulture in that follicle-challenged bird-family’s woodpile. Anyhow, after all of this pointless but riveting Goodness, Casey and Finnegan would go to sleep in the treehouse, Aunt Bird and Miss Biz would fly off to whatever sorry, hair-lined nest they called home and Mr. Dressup would conclude the show with a consultation of the Wise Old Owl, which was a framed picture of an owl that would magically come to life and open its cardboard eyes, roll them, say: “Who, who, to-wit, to-woo …” and then offer some word of encouragement to insecure children all over the world … or at least within a 150-mile radius of Toronto, Ontario.
It’s amazing how such low-budget yet creative and lovingly crafted productions had the power to mesmerize children, once upon a time. These characters became as familiar to us as friends when we were young and life was a bit simpler. It all went down not that long ago — as noted, the Mr. Dressup show racked-up 29 years of whimsical entertainment and over 4000 little episodes before the Tickle Trunk demanded a cut of the syndication profits or went on the fritz and refused to reveal its secrets for the unappreciative ADHD demographic of the burgeoning Cyber Age. That’s okay. When the asteroid hits and the Zombie Apocalypse is unleashed upon what precious little is left of civilization, we’ll all be forced to live in treehouses with pets rendered mute by radiation poisoning. I figure I’ll be one of the few who’s ready.
Thank you, Mr. Dressup.
DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Three little birdies, happy and gay. Three little birdies fly away.” (Classic chart-topping Mr. Dressup lyrics)
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ernie Coombs, who played Mr. Dressup for almost 30 years on the CBC, went on to become a popular figure on the college lecture circuit, especially for generations of students who had “grown up” with the beloved children’s program. Ernie Coombs passed away in 2001. RIP, Mr. D. As for the OTHERS …
Casey from the Treehouse …
The discombobulated “Aunt Bird” …
The Tickle Trunk …
EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Casey and Finnegan … Classic Moments to Treasure.
… Make merry and be happy. Try not to strangle your liberal or conservative loved ones over the mashed potatoes.
Jonathan Kieran is the author of Confessions from the Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop Culture Zombies (Brightbourne) as well as the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books. He is also the creator of the comic strip Zanzibar Circus. Explore this site to learn more about Jonathan’s work, or buy his books on Amazon by clicking the cover images to the right in the sidebar.
HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME (QUESTIONABLE TOYS FOR TOTS) posted by JONATHAN KIERAN
TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: The Pole-Dance Doll! by Whizmodo
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Yes, this doll was ACTUALLY manufactured and tainting toy-store shelves a few years ago, inching the world ever closer to a direct-hit by an asteroid or a galloping visit from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is why minds like mine turn to writing Good vs. Evil contemporary fantasy novels, people. Never the less, one can easily imagine the advertising copy that might have contributed to the roll-out for a “doll” like this:
Listen-up, moms of America! Christmas is only nine months away and you’re already pulling your hair out at the roots, wondering what in the world to buy for your loved ones. Well, you can expel a deep sigh of relief and cross any aspiring skanks right off that list … without “checking it twice”!
That’s right, if you’re eager to get your five year-old a toy that is not only fun but educational and conducive to future career-building, the Pole-Dance Doll is just the ticket! Isn’t this the cutest, most precious thing you’ve ever seen? The Pole-Dance Doll is certain to bring hours and hours of family fun to your modern-minded household. Think of little Hannah’s face when she viciously rips open her brightly colored package on Christmas day and discovers that Santa has blessed her with her very own Pole-Dance Doll! She’ll faint with joy, or, better yet, she’ll probably start looking for some bannister, or perhaps the cat’s scratching-post, to swing-around. You’ll cry, you’ll clap, and you’ll definitely want to have the video-cam rolling for that special moment. The Pole-Dance Doll is an answer to your holiday prayers. It comes with its own little trollop-stage (“pole” included) and is guaranteed to “move up and down” and “around and around” to “music.”
Yes, the fine minds at Whizmodo created what’s certain to become a staple beneath the ol’ Christmas tree each year. Best of all, the Pole-Dance Doll dovetails ideally with the themes and trends that are most cherished in contemporary American culture. Come on folks, we all want our daughters to become successful “businesswomen,” just like the girls they see on TV and in magazines! If you want little Ashley or Emma to have the slightest chance of ever getting her own reality show (or at least guest-starring on one), then you’ll run –not walk– and snatch this doll from the nearest purveyor of fine children’s toys. Yes, snatch it!
Come on, Mom! Everyone knows it’s cool to be a slinky strumpet these days. It’s “in” to be a brainless harlot! Where have you been? Do you want your daughter to hate you forever? Do you want her to blame you for ruining her opportunities for respectable advancement in a highly competitive society? Moms across the nation are already reaping the exercise benefits of swinging ’round stripper poles in their own bedrooms. Why, a neighborly dinner-party without a stripper-pole isn’t even a party at all, these days!
Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy! Strippers are no longer relegated to the seedy, flea-bitten, wrong-side-of-the-tracks fringes of society. No! They’re mainstream, now! Harmless. Everyone’s joining the fun, so lose those annoying little inhibitions and Get Into the SWING!
AND CHECK-OUT OUR DOLLS COMING SOON:
“Knocked-Up Teen Tanya”
Tanya is a fabulous doll that comes with a tiny “illegitimate infant” figurine inside her belly which may be “pushed out” whenever your child wants. Miniature shopping-mall toilet is optional. Playtime welfare-checks and government cheese sold separately.
Rebecca is a doll that comes with a complete line of “playtime” Oxycontin pills –they’re edible for kids!– a cute little crack-pipe, and two sold-separately “best friend” dolls: Back Alley Brenda and Peterson the Pusher.
EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Somehow, I’m sensing Japanese involvement, here.
Seriously, friends … Stop the world. I think I want to jump off.
Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, Friends, if Only for a Few Hours. Get acquainted with the comparatively sane world of Rowan Blaize …
One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A suspicious storm that hurls him to earth near London. A goddess who wants to destroy the world. The catch? She needs Rowan’s face. REMOVED.
A deliciously twisted magical adventure is born with Rowan Blaize and the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right (or use the links below) to learn more or purchase with an enchanted click.