When I was a kid, I assumed that everything in my world was pretty normal. After all, what could I compare it to? I had a mom and a dad, and they seemed like what moms and dads were supposed to be like. I had my own room with a giant poster of Dick Butkus, and he seemed like what middle linebackers were supposed to be like. We had a television, to which I was granted intermittent access, and the characters seemed like what television characters were supposed to be like. It is only 35 years later that I am fully beginning to grasp that the arbiters of early 70s kid culture might have been residing in some parallel normalcy.
The least controversial show to be beamed into my psyche was The Brady Bunch. Despite its tinkering with traditional notions on the construction of the nuclear family, the Brady clan represented the Platonic ideal of domestic life, and each thirty-minute tale delivered a well-conceived and indisputable moral, like if you plead your case directly to him, Davy Jones will accompany you to your junior high dance, or that if you kiss an adolescent girl, you might see skyrockets, but you might also get mumps. Looking back at those episodes now, they seem exactly as they did then.
Some other shows, it appears, slid some things past me on the sly. For instance, it’s now clear that George Jetson possessed a grotesquely ironic chauvinism that I was not meant to emulate (sorry ladies), and that Shaggy was smoking a ridiculous amount of weed in the Mystery Machine. Such revelations only serve to allow me to enjoy these shows on a level unavailable to me in my youth.
Other shows, however, reveal that it was not the characters who were smoking copious cannabis. It was the creators. While plumbing the depths of YouTube recently, it struck me that a show that I had previously viewed as an unmatched example of magical merriment, was in fact the result of manic munching of magic mushrooms. How else can you explain this?:
A boy. In a cowboy outfit. Playing a magic flute. In the mountains. Takes a solo ride on a psychedelic boat. That belongs to a witch. Who chases him across the water. Where he’s saved by a happy troll. And the kid isn’t freaked out in the least.
Now it’s obvious that even the name of the show was a psychotropic joke slipped past credulous censors. Sid and Marty Krofft, quite obviously, were puffin’ stuff. How did my generation survive this? How did we avoid a mass contact high?
That’s the beauty of youth. So oblivious to corrupting influences that they pass on by without leaving a mark.
At least The Banana Splits were on the up and up. Right?