In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
What’s a favorite TV series from your childhood?
I’m a sucker for a British secret agent drama. I’ve got a lot of opinions about Bond films, and Austin Powers, and Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country comics. But my very first introduction to the genre — and still for my money, the Greatest Secret Agent in the World, was Danger Mouse.
My siblings and I got addicted to these reruns on Nickelodeon, and …I’m not sure what we thought they were about. Most of my ideas about twentieth century British culture were formed from this show (and also The Tomorrow People) — lots of ‘Cor!’ and “Crikey!’ and jokes about tea. I guess Danger Mouse was the ‘80s equivalent of Harry Potter in that way.
But aside from the contribution to trans-Atlantic cultural understanding, this was just an awesome adventure cartoon about an intrepid mouse and his faithful (hamster) assistant Penfold. They had a flying car and they fought an evil toad, and a stuttering vampire duck, and the wikipedia about the show has great facts like, “Colonel K, Danger Mouse’s boss; often mistaken for a walrus, it was revealed in an issue of Look-in magazine that he is, in fact, a chinchilla.” (I think I always thought he was a dog but I can’t say I pondered it too deeply).
For a lot of young geeks, their first brush with serial science fiction is some incarnation of Star Trek. Technically, I was no different — I started watching Star Trek: Voyager with my parents when it started airing. But the sci-fi show that really captured my interest was the one that premiered on Nickelodeon a year or so later — Space Cases.
Space Cases was a kind of baby Voyager. Its premise was that a group of kids enrolled at a space academy snuck aboard a spaceship and, through a series of mishaps, wound up propelling themselves and two of their teachers deep into space, with no way to return home in less than 7 years. Characters included leader Harlan Band, played by Power Ranger Walter Jones, and the rainbow-haired Catalina, who was played by Firefly’s Jewel Staite. More importantly, though, the show had some serious sci-fi cred behind the scenes — it was co-created by Peter David, writer of comics and Star Trek novelizations (and a whole lot more), and Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson (“Danger!”) on the original 1960s Lost in Space. Together they wrote a show that consciously played with sci-fi tropes in clever and kid-friendly ways, and it was full of compelling character conflict and (unsurprisingly for a Peter David work) largely pun-based humor.
I have distinct memories of playing Space Cases with my brother and cousin in my basement, and when I worked with Peter David on X-Factor years later, I couldn’t help telling him about the impact it had on me as a kid. I owe my current media interests to a lot of different formative influences, but Space Cases is definitely near the top.
My best memories of watching television are shows my mom, sister, and I used to watch together after my parents got divorced. As consolation, perhaps, we got cable after my parents split up, and things were never the same! Any of the shows we watched together – The Wonder Years, CSI, The X-Files, 21 Jump Street (watched on DVDs we bought from China on eBay) – hold a special place in my heart, but lately I’ve been re-watching one of our favorites, Everwood, and I’m really enjoying it.
I was reminded of how great Everwood was when someone pointed out to me that Chris Pratt played Bright, the older brother of one of the main characters on the show, and my love for it all came flooding back. Dr. Brown, a world-class brain surgeon, moves his two children to a small Colorado town after the death of his wife. The teenager, Ephram, is angsty. His younger sister is cute. There’s drama galore. It’s so good, and super epitomizes dramas of the early 2000s. My mom was so in love with Dr. Brown! My sister and I had huge crushes on Ephram! At this point I’ve been watching Everwood in my free time rather than catching up on Doctor Who, if that tells you anything about how much I loved it then and now.
I’m gonna go with an old SNICK favorite: Are You Afraid of the Dark?
I loved the premise of the show: a bunch of young friends creeping out into the woods (no parental questions asked) to share scary stories over a campfire. The format was also great in that we were shown different stories every week that featured future up-and-comers like a Ryan Gosling and Jewel Staite. Every story was pretty nuanced too, especially for something aimed at kids. I’d like to think of it as a cultural artifact of the days where the special effects left much to be desired, but at least the stories had solid quality. And not only were they quality, but they were also memorable. The episode The Tale of the Dream Girl purportedly influenced the plot of Sixth Sense .
So what about you? What’s a favorite TV series from your childhood?