Television: Who's Afraid of Big, Bad TV?

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Until now, that status has been nothing to quo about. One of the most beloved legends of radio concerned Uncle Don of WOR radio who finished a broadcast and sighed à la W.C. Fields: "That should hold the little bastards." The mike had been left open, the little bastards' parents wrote in, and Uncle Don's autogiro never again set down on the roof of Bamberger's department store. In a sense, that minuscule conflict has occurred ever since. Cynicism has animated most children's shows, from Howdy Doody to Magilla Gorilla. Bozo the Clown uttered fatuities between pitches in the '50s. The golden age of the '50s brought such entertainment as Kid Gloves (little boys boxing with gloves that "couldn't hurt") and Grand Chance Roundup, which gave the winner a one-week shot at the Pier groups in Atlantic City.

In the '60s, the networks let Nietzsche take its course: the superhero abounded. Birdman pulverized wrongos with solar power. Spider Man flung his webs around the villains. The Fantastic Four included The Thing, a repulsive brute who destroyed his enemies by stomping on them. Some cartoon shows dispensed with animation entirely. Marine Boy showed a static caricatured face with human lips that spoke the lines.

Such on-the-air pollution continued until the Kennedy and King assassinations caused a tide of parental and congressional revulsion from violence. By that time, broadcasters had evolved a highly sensible plan. If "adult" evening programming was immature, why not allow it to rerun during the children's hours, where it might meet its intellectual level? Thus the Flintstones' "Pa's a Sap" approach now runs every day. Bewitched is a daily staple; so are The Beverly Hillbillies and F Troop. Today the rerun is no longer a method of picking up the small change; it is programmed into children's video. An animated segment costs the networks about $60,000. The cost is amortized over a period of two years­which includes five reruns. Anything after that is gravy. The gravy stains are spotted on the endlessly repeated Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Top Cat.

Get Your Friends Up Tight

Not all the shows have been triumphs of vulgarity­just most of them. In between the mice-bombing-the-cat and Samantha-fixes-the-plumbing repeats, there has been some tasteful and educational fare. Mr. I Magination took kids on gentle fictional trips, won awards­and lost sponsorship. The science-oriented Mr. Wizard lasted 14 years, was canceled in 1965. Ding Dong School, starring Dr. Frances Horwich, was a gentle, preschool program that provided a nannyish instructor for a babysitter. She, too, became an unreplaced dropout.

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