Let’s be honest. Kid’s TV is at its best when it’s at its weirdest. I grooved on the strangeness of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” during my college days, but even as a child I somehow sensed the unsettling undertones of the supposedly innocent shows of my long-ago childhood.
Let’s be honest. Kids’ TV is at its best when it’s at its weirdest.
I grooved on the strangeness of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” during my college days, but even as a child, I somehow sensed the unsettling undertones of the supposedly innocent shows of my long-ago childhood.
“Land of the Lost,” “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Lidsville” were pitched as family-friendly entertainment, but they were actually nightmarish tales of innocent children trapped in scary, dangerous worlds. And that’s why I loved them.
Cartoon Network has recreated that sort of strangeness with its animated series “Adventure Time.” The show revolves around Finn (a boy) and Jake (a shape-shifting dog, voiced by John DiMaggio of “Futurama” fame) who spend their time exploring the mystical land of Ooo and dealing with its oddball inhabitants.
It’s funny, smart and — best of all — completely unpredictable. Unlike the weird programming of my misspent youth, “Adventure Time” is actually well-written and nicely animated, with plots that are surprising and characters you care about. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s not “Lidsville,” either.
It’s no wonder that, according to the news release that came with the DVD, it’s a huge hit with boys 11 and younger. I’d wager it’s also very popular with boys ages 17 to 23, too. It’s the sort of show that college students no doubt giggle over when they’re feeling the effects of something other than breakfast cereal and fruit roll-ups. Both groups will enjoy the new DVD, which collects a dozen episodes from the show’s first two seasons.
In this magic age of home video, virtually any show from your childhood is on DVD. I’d advise you to skip those and try something new and different — and actually good — instead.
“Mad Men” won’t return until next spring, so the networks are rushing to fill the void of shows about well-dressed sexists set in the not-so-distant past. ABC has “Pan Am,” and NBC has “The Playboy Club,” but the prize goes to the BBC, with its miniseries “The Hour.”
Set earlier than its American counterparts in 1956, when television was on the rise and World War II was a not-so-distant memory, “The Hour” focuses on the tension between an ambitious journalist (Ben Winshaw), an ambitious producer (Romola Garai) and an ambitious anchorman (Dominic West) in the days of the increasingly chilly Cold War.
To be honest, that love triangle makes it feel more like “Broadcast News” than “Mad Men,” but who cares? The performances are sharp, the script is smart and the period setting is evocative. Like many BBC series, it’s not exactly fast-paced, but sometimes patience is a virtue.
As a bonus, fans of “The Wire” can hear Dominic West (who played Detective McNulty on that HBO series) speaking in his normal voice — and it’s an accent that definitely wasn’t born on the mean streets of Baltimore!
The DVD and Blu-ray, now in stores, contain all six episodes of the series plus a pair of making-of featurettes. It won’t get you all the way to spring, when “Mad Men” returns, but it should make the wait more enjoyable.
Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs and movies. Contact him at email@example.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/willpfeifer/.