Monday, November 08, 2004

Lidsville is the koo-koo-kookiest

I don't know what triggered it, but this morning I was thinking about those old Sid and Marty Krofft kids' shows that were ubiquitous on Saturday morning television in the '70s. Specifically, I was thinking of Lidsville, the Krofft brothers' follow-up to the popular H.R. Pufnstuf (oh ho, is there a marijuana reference lurking in there somewhere?). If there were a Hall of Fame for the weirdest TV programs of all time, Lidsville would occupy a hallowed place in that institution.

For the benefit of our age-deficient readers, Lidsville related the tale of a young man named Mark (played by Butch Patrick, at the time best known as Eddie Munster from the ersatz horror sitcom The Munsters) who fell into a top hat belonging to an amusement park magician (I know, it sounds ridiculous already — just stick with me). Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, Mark found himself in a psychedelic fantasyland filled with bizarre wonders — in this case, a population of talking hats, ruled over by an evil wizard named Horatio J. HooDoo (portrayed with biting sarcasm and outrageous camp by future Match Game panelist Charles Nelson Reilly) and his unwilling yet charmingly androgynous slave, Weenie the Genie (played by former Pufnstuf villainess Billie Hayes — add "Weenie" to Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver and Paladin's Asian manservant "Hey Boy" on your list of Character Names You Couldn't Get Away With on Television Today). HooDoo, for reasons I've long since forgotten, spent all of his free time trying to keep Mark from leaving Lidsville, while Weenie spent all of his (her? its?) free time attempting to help Mark do exactly that, so they could escape HooDoo's clutches together.

Lidsville was every bit as freakish as the preceding description makes it sound, and more besides. But as strange as it was, it didn't play down to its young audience. If anything, like most of the early Krofft fare (Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, Land of the Lost), it may have given kids too much credit for being hipper than they actually were. (The Kroffts were often accused of inserting too-adult references into their children's programs, in an era when people were just beginning to pay attention to such things. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The brothers Krofft always seemed genuinely shocked when people found what they interpreted as drug ("Pufnstuf"?) and sexual ("Weenie"?) allusions in Krofft shows.)

Charles Nelson Reilly, incidentally, followed his Lidsville stint with the lead in another '70s kids' show, Uncle Croc's Block. Those of us who remember Uncle Croc and his crew, which included fellow camp icon Jonathan Harris (Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space) and Mel Brooks repertory veterans Robert Ridgely (the hangman in Blazing Saddles) and Kenneth Mars (the constable in Young Frankenstein), view it as one of the seed pods from which the later, but remarkably similar, Pee Wee's Playhouse germinated.

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Huh. Never heard of this show. I'll have to ask my spouse.

8:44 AM  

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