In Which I Revisit My Childhood, Courtesy of Sid and Marty Kroft.
As a member of a mail-order movie DVD club, I receive a magazine twice monthly detailing the company's offerings. I was recently leafing through the latest magazine, looking at the colorful pictures and reading the blurbs for the latest offerings when my eye was caught by a listing. At first I couldn't believe it: this seemed like some phantom memory out of my childhood. I peered at the ad. Yep, no doubt about it. Here was a listing for a DVD of the old Saturday morning sci-fi show, Land of the Lost.
For many of us born on the tail-end of the baby boom, the middle seventies was a time of terribly drawn, poorly scripted Saturday morning cartoons. Think back to some of those shows: The Mr. T. Show, Muhammad Ali, Rubik the Amazing Cube and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. Yep, they were real Saturday morning programs, believe it or not. As bad as the cartoons were, the live action shows were worse. Some of the worst of the fare was the live-action adventure shows, usually shows built around a celebrity whose star had faded long ago. Of the live-action shows, probably the most popular was the Sid and Marty Kroft production of Land of the Lost.
LOL was a live action show built around the adventures of the Marshall family—Rick the dad, Will his heart-throb teenage son and Holly, his blond haired tweener daughter. While on a rafting expedition, they supposedly fell through a dimensional doorway and wound up on a planet inhabited by dinosaurs and strange alien beings. The show chronicled their attempts to find a way home while surviving the peculiar dangers of a planet inhabited by dinosaurs, monkey men and 6-foot high insect people.
Land of the Lost. Hmm. I leaned back in my chair and reminisced for a minute. Clay-dough dinosaurs. Guys in monkey suits. Hissing insect-people. Ridiculous dialogue. Terrible acting. What the heck, it's no worse than anything you can see at night on TV nowadays. I filled out the return order card with the number for the Land of the Lost DVD. Time to revisit my childhood.
A couple of weeks later I received my DVD. I ripped the cardboard mailing box off, and there it was, my new acquisition, as shiny and pristine as any thirty-year memory could be. I opened the case, inserted the DVD and sat back. Lookout childhood, here I come.
The familiar cheesy banjo music started in. Oops, there goes the Marshall's raft over the waterfall and into a time warp of some sort. Ah, here they are, being menaced by the Sleestak, a primitive race of hissing insect-people. Here come the dinosaurs. All of a sudden, I wasn't a balding middle-aged family man with a backache and an expanding waistline. Suddenly, I was a 12 year old again, young and eager, with my whole life before me, and Holly Marshall was the cutest, sweetest girl on the planet.
I watched the episodes one after another, unmindful of the horrific special effects, the ludicrous acting. Instead of bursting out laughing when the insect people menaced the Marshalls with bow and arrow sets that couldn't have punctured a balloon, I leaned forward excitedly. Would they make it? I didn't care about the hinge on the dinosaurs open mouth, the painted-on tongue, the god-awful plastic trees and Styrofoam rocks. I wasn't a jaded 40-something--I was 12 again, not cynical, not viewing the world with a jaundiced eye. I could once again attain "suspension of disbelief", where anything was possible. It was the middle seventies again, and I was secure, loved, and happy in my childish innocence. All I needed was a pair of bell-bottoms, a flower-covered shirt, a pair of granny glasses and a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal.
When it was over, I leaned back contentedly. That was a trip down memory lane that was well worth the price. My daughter Mary, who had watched the show with me, couldn't believe it.
"Daddy, that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. It all looked fake." She shook her head. "I don't see why you bought that thing."
We have no TV connection in our house, so Mary's TV viewing is limited to movies and things we've previously recorded. Even so, she's been raised on a diet of movies with glorious special effects; things are rendered on the screen that are so realistic they look like they're really happening. Land of the Lost, in comparison, is hokey and fake-looking, a TV program done on a dollar-store budget.
"Sweetie, when I was your age I thought this was the best show on TV." I closed my eyes, lost in memories. "I didn't notice all the fake-looking stuff. I didn't care that the acting was bad. I didn't see the zippers on the monkey suits."
She stood up, came over to the couch where I was lying down, bent and kissed me on the forehead. "It's awful, but I love you anyway." She left the room and I was alone, holding the DVD case to the program. I turned the case over and over in my hands, thinking.
Sometimes the most enjoyable things in our lives aren't the flashy, expensive, well-done things. Sometimes those things that are cheesy, a little tasteless, even poorly done are the things we cherish. We close our eyes to the zipper on the monkey suit, ignore the Styrofoam rocks, forget about the dime-store dialogue, and simply sit back and enjoy. God bless Land of the Lost for reminding me of that. I wonder if H. R. Pufnstuff and Lidsville are available on DVD?