Wednesday, May 31, 2006


For some reason, my brother and I got into a debate about the old seventies kids' show Make A Wish. Specifically, about the tag line...Oh, never mind. It's not important.

Make A Wish was hosted by earnest, denim-clad folk singer Tom Chapin (then as now, best known as Harry Chapin's kid brother), and every episode would consist of two segments in which we'd take some object--corn or fish or hot dogs--or some abstract concept--like dreams--and examine it through rapid fire montage of old film clips, occasional talking head interviews and vaguely psychadelic animation. At the end of each segment, Ton would offer a song about the topic.

That description makes it sound weirder than it actually seemed at the time. Watching it as a little kid, I always thought of it as what Sesame Street would be like without the muppets. In other words, boring.

Of course, my problem with it may have been that it aired on Sunday mornings. If Saturday morning was cartoon heaven for a kid, Sunday was, at best, purgatory. If memory serves, ABC was the only one of the three networks that even scheduled kiddie programming on Sundays. Unfortunately, they seemed to operate on the TV-should-be-good-for-you theory, with not only Make A Wish, but such later shows as Animals, Animals, Animals (gee, what could that have been about?) and Kids Are People, Too. Plus, ABC was the home of Schoolhouse Rock, which by its very name announced that it was going to teach you stuff. On the weekend? Dude, no way.

Hey, at least ABC tried. Mostly Sunday morning TV in the seventies (and keep in mind, I lived on a farm, so that even by the late seventies, cable was only a dream) consisted of syndicated stuff. My favorite among these was Insight, a vaguely religious anthology show that kind of played like an Afterschool Special for grown-ups. Martin Sheen was such a frequent guest star on this show that the first time I saw Apocalypse Now, I remember thinking, This is the weirdest episode of Insight ever.

There were also locally produced shows, including kiddie shows that, I'm sorry, I can't imagine any kid actually watched. (I certainly didn't.) Mom always served Sunday dinner in time for Bill Riley's State Fair Talent Search, which was about as entertaining as it sounds, the greatest thing on earth if you're into baton twirling.

The real problem with enjoying Sunday morning TV was...well, it was Sunday morning. Which led into Sunday afternoon, then evening...then time for the nightmare week of school to start again. There was always a feeling of impending doom hanging over Sundays. So even if the TV schedule had consisted of non-stop Warner Bros. cartoons, it still would have had a feeling of a last gasp of glory, a delicious final meal before the slow walk to Old Sparky.

But at least it would have been better than Make A Wish.