My Top Ten Scariest Kids Shows
I know my mom has received a bad rap for dropping me off at the mall to see Poltergeist when I was six. Oh, you didn’t hear about that? Here you go. She’ll be thrilled that I keep circulating it. Well, I’m going to try to cut her some slack here by giving you a rundown of some other traumatizing shows I saw as a kid that, unlike Poltergeist, were supposed to be watched by kids. Poor parents didn’t know any better.
Now, before I begin, try to think back to a time when Poltergeist was honest to goodness rated PG. Yes, PG, as in Hey, moms and dads! If you happen to be at this movie with your kids – we’re certainly not implying that you need to be – you might want to have a talk with the little tikes afterwards. Maybe tell them how clown dolls can’t actually strangle kids under their beds at night. That’s all! Enjoy the show, folks!
So, from the same era that brought you PG-rated horror movies, I give you My Top Ten Scariest Kids Show Moments. In no particular order. Because it will take time and therapy sessions for me to accurately assess the level of damage each one inflicted on me.
1.) E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982, PG). So many endearing things in this movie! Sweet little E.T. eating Reese’s Pieces. Cute little E.T. hiding in the stuffed animals. Funny little E.T. drinking too much beer and passing out. And then, in came the evil government researchers to hunt him down like a dog. Previously they had captured him while wearing white scrubs, gloves and those hazardous waste gas masks. Who’s the sci-fi creepos now? This movie ultimately led me to believe that science was evil. And that beer makes you funny . . . and it’s okay to drink it . . . so long as your dog is supervising.
2.) Watership Down (1978, PG). I can partially attribute this one to yet another parental lapse. My mom read the book prior to the movie’s release. Yet I suppose she didn’t remember the whole bit about psychic death visions, rabbits dismembering one another, and so forth. Fiver’s clairvoyance shows him blood washing over a mountain, warning the rabbits what lie ahead. Not too far off from little Danny’s vision of blood pouring out the elevator shaft in the horror movie The Shining. What’s the difference? Oh yeah. The Shining didn’t feature cartoon rabbits.
3.) The Last Unicorn (1982, G). As a kid, I always believed unicorns were on par with sunshine, rainbows and gumdrops as universal symbols of happiness. No? So let me get this straight. Sparkly puffy pink unicorn stickers that I put on my Care Bears notebook: good. Unicorns fighting flaming evil bulls and unicorns that transform into naked women: bad.
4.) The Dark Crystal (1982, PG). As it turns out, Jim Henson, God bless ‘em and may he rest in peace, had just a bit more going on in his creative little noggin than wigs on pigs and teaching kids to count. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the doe-eyed little elfin creatures that were used to market this movie to kids. No, I just mostly remember the skeletal devil vultures.
5.) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, G). I’d be hard pressed to find a one of you who wouldn’t tinkle in your Underoos if you saw this tunnel scene as a kid.
6.) Sesame Street, Episode ABC123. This must’ve been the moment Jim Henson got his taste for terror. The Count von Count sleeps over at Ernie and Bert’s place. When the Count can’t sleep – well whaddya know! – he counts sheep. Which keeps Ernie awake all night. Which makes Ernie very tired. Which turns Ernie into a FLESH-EATING ZOMBIE. I decided not to embed this video for fear that a little person might wander upon your computer. Here’s a link instead. Just please promise to hide it away when you’re through so no children will ever find it. Ever.
7.) What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983, NR) The televised prequel to this was called Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown where Charlie Brown takes a student exchange trip to France. Only, this next movie didn’t carryon with the whole Snoopy-frolicking-in-a-beret shtick. I sincerely give Charles Schulz props for attempting to slap some appreciation into us oblivious American kids with our feelings of entitlement. Linus even delivers the sobering poem “In Flander’s Fields” and it brings the house down. Here’s my complaint. If you look at this movie poster of the prequel, would you perhaps be taken aback by the next movie being about the war battles, soldier graves and bloodshed? I was tormented by this cartoon for weeks. And not in the way Charles Schulz intended.
8.) The Secret of NIMH (1982, G). I should’ve made my way out the door for another box of Jujyfruits when I heard Justin the Rat say “Damnit!” That should’ve been my clue that the grown-ups in the workshop got carried away again. Because then there was this scene, which is twice as scary on scratchy 16 mm film.
9.) The Bozo Show: Wizzo the Wizard. I’ve looked into the eyes of Satan and he is Wizzo the Wizard. I find clowns as terrifying as the next person. But if I was forced to choose between: A.) being locked up at night with Bozo the Clown in the basement of an old abandoned institution for the criminally insane, or B.) doing the “safe lunch” with Wizzo and the Wizard at a neighborhood Red Lobster, there’d be no question what I’d say. A! A! A! Sweet baby Jesus, please give me option A!
10.) The Electric Grandmother (1982, G). Based on a Ray Bradbury short story with a wholesome message about intergenerational bonding. No one else on the planet remembers it. Except me. And my brother who is still haunted by it to this day. A grandmother who is a robot. She looks human. But at night, she plugs herself into the wall to recharge. Don’t get off on the wrong track and start thinking cute little Rosie the robot maid from the Jetsons. No, trust me, this was certifiably CREEPY. And what would you expect from a movie that begins with a coffin delivered by helicopter. See for yourself.
Am I forgetting something? Most likely because I’ve repressed it in order to save myself. Do chime in with your own terrifying kids show memories. C’mon, it’ll help to talk about it.