Friday, October 23, 2009

The muppets are real; Soupy Sales

The muppets are real. They said so on TV.

On Wednesday evening, the show “Dinner Impossible” on Food Network featured not only host chef Robert Irvine trying to cook dinner for over 200 people in eight hours, but Maria, Elmo and Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street.” At the beginning of the show, a disclaimer came up over a black screen. It read, “What you are about to see is real.” Well, among the things we saw were Elmo and Cookie Monster. If what we are about to see is real, then that means that Elmo and Cookie Monster are real. QED. For that matter, it also means that Sesame Street is real, and Maria is real (she didn’t go by Sonia Manzano, but by Maria! So Maria is real!) The alternative is that the disclaimer is lying to us, which would be pretty horrible, and would mean that the network could be sued. I suggest they come up with a new disclaimer. “Most of what you are about to see is real.” Or how about “The food is real, real good.” Or maybe the best of all, “You folks need a real life.”


MESSY SITUATION: When I heard the news this morning that Soupy Sales had sailed to a better place, I immediately thought of Fred Hembeck, the biggest Soupy fan I know. He’s already shared some of his thoughts on his “Fred Sez” posting for this morning. Check it out:

It wasn't necessarily Soupy's material that sparkled but the absolutely joyful--and infectious--manner in which he delivered it. THAT was his particular brand of genius. After all, if Soupy himself was having so much fun, how could we viewers help but not join in?

You'll be sorely missed, funny guy.

Check out more in Fred’s blog in my links section.

Soupy was before my time, so I have more memories of folks like Fred Rogers. And here’s where things get a bit messy- messy as in pies in the face and slapstick.

In several interviews, Fred Rogers stated that one of the reasons he got into children’s television was that he hated the children’s television shows that were on the air. He (as far as I know) never named any of those shows, but he described them as having “pies in the face and slapstick.” Now from what clips I have seen from the Soupy Sales show, if I had to describe it in a few words. . .yep, pies in the face and slapstick. Fred Rogers believed that children’s shows could be - and should be - much more than that. So he created one of the greatest children’s shows of all time.

I think the problem is that Soupy’s show was more geared toward “entertainment” than children. It was passed off as "kids’ TV" not so much because it was for kids, but because it was silly and seen as "harmless". It’s understandable that someone seeing this would see a big void in kids’ TV and try to fill it with stuff that actually helped kids. Soupy Sales' goals were different from Fred Rogers' goals. Likewise, his show was different. I’m sure Soupy and company (and his viewers) had a lot of fun. But if we’ve learned anything from children’s TV in the past 40 years (hint hint), it is that children learn things from television, and any programming for kids needs to take that into consideration. Soupy was likely a great talent, but I fear that if he were around today, they’d have to put him at late night on “Cartoon Network,” as he would be performing material that we would recognize as being unfit for young kids. It would likely still be a fun show. But it wouldn't be the same.

COMING SOON: Someday her prince will come.