TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (15)
August 15, 2018
One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite TV shows from the Fifties (1954–1963).
Sunday mornings in early-’80s Los Angeles, my brother and I would come home from Hebrew school, make Steak-Umm and cheese sandwiches on hoagie buns, and settle in in front of the TV for a round of “so help us God, we will watch whatever you air.”
Most weeks, it was an absolute dust bowl for pre-teen me. The choices included old men talking about politics, old men talking about Jesus, and old men talking about football — none of which had much appeal. Which explains how I came to love Art Clokey and his primitive Christian jewel, Davey and Goliath.
Paired in repeats with Clokey’s more famous creation, The Gumby Show, Davey and Goliath had all the sophistication of a two-stroke engine — no wit, no winking irony, just simple, 15-minute parables about a boy and his dog-slash-superego. Storylines moved from point A to point B, with no detours or frills. Children spoke like Lutheran elders, not least because they were voiced by middle-aged adults. The stilted, jumpy Claymation had everyone’s arms hanging weirdly down to their knees. Honestly, it was like watching cave paintings.
Still, it was addictive. The themes were obvious but sweet – one week Davey might learn a tough lesson about leaving a nail from his go-cart repair in the path of his father’s car. Another week, he might discover that just because a kid has a spotted necktie is no reason to bully him. Often, the lesson boiled down to “really Davey, don’t be awful.” To his credit, he always learned that lesson with grace and good humor. To the show’s credit, it never felt preachy, even when the lessons were overtly Christian. It was like a kinder, gentler, TV version of a Chick tract, if Jack Chick had been a Lutheran, and not an asshole.
The show could never survive today — too many good choices. It’s a shame, too — some of those themes still feel fresh and relevant. Like that time an old shoe cobbler spoke French to Davey, and Davey tried to have him arrested. There was a God lesson in that one, too, and a good one. Would have gone great with Steak-Ummm.
TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Luc Sante on LOONEY TUNES | Chris Spurgeon on THE THREE STOOGES | Adrienne Crew on MY THREE SONS | Barbara Bogaev on ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | Devin McKinney on THE TWILIGHT ZONE | James Hannaham on THE NAT KING COLE SHOW | Mimi Lipson on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES | Jessamyn West on THE JETSONS | Gary Panter on THE OUTER LIMITS | Peter Doyle on THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS | Mark Kingwell on ROUTE 66 | Josh Glenn on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW | Lynn Peril on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW | Rob Walker on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER | Dan Reines on DAVEY & GOLIATH | Adam McGovern on HIGHWAY PATROL | Erik Davis on HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL | Greg Rowland on THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW | Annie Nocenti on THE AVENGERS | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on GUNSMOKE | Sarah Weinman on NAKED CITY | Douglas Rushkoff on THE HONEYMOONERS | Kio Stark on ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS | Gordon Dahlquist on PERRY MASON | Brian Berger on CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? | CODA: Crystal Durant on Marc Anthony & Pussyfoot shorts | CODA: Mike Watt on “A Stop at Willoughby”
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