Throwback Thursday: Pappy Drewitt

Ah, Pappy Drewitt. If you were born in the 90s, maybe you can still hear the song: Pappy, Pappy Drewitt, he drew Pappyland. And you too can do it, if you’re in Pappyland!

But I wouldn’t know, because I was born in the 80s. Young enough to watch children’s TV in the 90s, but old enough to watch it mockingly, I remember singing something more like “Crappy, Crappy Drewitt, he blew Crappyland. And you too can do it, if urine Crappyland!”

If you wonder why millennials like things ironically, I direct you to the (relative) success of the T.L.C. show Pappyland. Except for children under the age of 5, none of us were watching it in earnest. We were watching it to exercise our budding comedic sensibilities, like a fawn first learning to walk. Pappy Drewitt is probably the cultural moment that confirmed that we are truly The Shittiest Generation.

Pappyland was a children’s art show about a kindly elderly man who lives in a fantasy world that he drew himself, possibly an allegory about how those with Alzheimer’s connect with the very young, possibly an attempt to teach children about the joys of self-expression. It was a tender gift from TLC to the children of the world – literally. The opening sequence actually says “Dedicated To Children Around The World.” And the shitty children around the world said “ha, it rhymes with Crappyland!” and tore it to shreds.

80s Babies, I’m back for round two.

Feel free to watch along and follow my commentary – but I’m inclined to think that this is burned so deeply in our collective memory that you don’t even need to watch it to remember.

Even though I hate-watched Pappy Drewitt, I still always secretly wished he would say my name when he greeted children through the screen. He never did, because those bitches were always named Jessica.

Pappy Drewitt is a soulless children’s show: like Barney without all of the children. Or Mr. Rogers without the gentile middle-class lifestyle (I think Pappy is Appalachian?). Or Sesame Street without virtually everything likeable about Sesame Street.

They’re obviously trying – there are puppets, which is sort of the minimum baseline effort you have to make in children’s t.v. – but there’s not a surly Oscar or a childlike Elmo in sight. Instead, the Pappy puppets are all indistinguishable idiots. There’s an idiot bear, a dumb-bitch girl flower, and this one stupid bird.

The bear, in particular, looks like a Furry. I think Dumb Bitch Girl Flower is the only female character on the show, and for once I say “thank you, that’s quite enough representation for one day!” Boys, you’re going to have to bear responsibility for this tv mess almost alone.

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Pappy wears a ring, so he is either married or widowed. He also wears a 99-cent bandana and a plain t-shirt that look like they came from a Michael’s Craft Store. There is a turtle named Turtle-Loo, who has a god-awful indistinguishably “ethnic” accent. He is either French, Italian, or Spanish. Pappy whitely intones “prrrrronto!”  At least  Dora The Explorer teaches the children of the world how to speak annoying non-English catch-phrases correctly.

Pappy teaches us about manners in this episode, I guess, but he’s sort of dogmatic about it and he’s basically a real dick.

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During the first run of Pappy Drewitt, I was at that magical age where no matter what he drew, in the beginning it always looked like a butt or some boobs. This episode is no exception. He draws a bunny, but he starts with the eyes, which look like nothing so much as lopsided cartoon tetas.

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Guys, he just KEEPS DRAWING. In real time. For over six minutes, we watch a piece of paper as a grown man doodles a bunny on it. Can’t they do that cooking show thing and time-lapse it? When Pappy finishes we learn the name of this piece: “Two Bunnies In A Doorway, And There’s Carrots In The Doorway.”pappy3

In college we made my friend, who was high, watch a video of these cat marionettes. He could not deal with it. We had to turn it off. I think if we had showed him Pappy Drewitt instead, his brain would have actually exploded.

Sing-A-Song-Sam (Michael Curley), a 1920s barbershop quartet-looking guy, sings a tuneless song about manners. I’d like to remind everyone that before T.L.C. was America’s Sideshow, this is the kind of thing we watched on it.

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Holy cow. He is seriously going to spell out the entire word “polite” as a mnemonic to teach the rules of politiness. Isn’t that way too complicated? Isn’t the only rule of politeness “don’t be a dick?” Maybe I shouldn’t have kids. There are not actually six rules, because some of these are clearly repeats:

P – Say Please And Thank you!

Okay. I’ll give them this.

O – Offer To Help Out Too!

Fine, yeah. But this still falls cleanly under “don’t be a dick.”

L – Listen To What Others Say

Sure.

I – Is there anything that I can do?

I’m sorry. Is this an illustration of “offer to help out too”?

T – take turns in the games you play
E – Excuse me if I’m in your way!

So basically, be more Canadian.

Hold onto your hats, kids, now Pappy’s going to color the picture! We watch a grown man color for an additional 5+ minutes. I take back my indictment of our generation: Pappyland deserved our scorn.

Pappy calls himself “Pappy,” in the third person, and it truly sounds like more of a personal weird bedroom thing.

As Pappy colors the wall yellow, he surmises “It could be made of straw! Or it could be painted this color!” Then he says like seven more things about the color, which I repeat, is just yellow.

Finally, Pappy shows us drawings sent in by viewers. There’s one with the same first and last name as a girl we went to high school with and, considering Pappy was filmed an hour away in Syracuse, I think it’s probably hers. All of the kids’ drawings look better than Pappy’s stupid Rabbits With Doorway Carrots or whatever.

Speaking of high school, the quality of Pappy Drewitt’s special effects is actually lower than the greenscreen we had for Morning Update, our daily in-house student news program.
We have to leave, because it is now “quarter to orange!” I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey to Pappyland. Michael Cariglio (Pappy) is (or was?) probably a kind-hearted, imaginative man who wanted to share his love of drawing with children around the world. Instead, he helped a generation of children hone their mockery skills and probably inspired more than a few of them to take up light drug use. This, truly, was his gift to the world’s children.

Life Lessons From ZOOM

I live my adult professional life by the principles of the late-90s reboot of Zoom. Yes, the PBS children’s show. This wasn’t intentional. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I sat down to write a post about Zoom, at which point I discovered that the show had leached into my subconscious and bled all the way through to my working life. Sure, I’ve learned a lot from higher education and on-the-job experience — but everything I really needed to know, I apparently learned from Zoom.

1) Always cheer for your friends.

Remember how every time they were playing a game, all of the kids would cheer for everyone who was competing? They’d be all “Go Zoe! Go Jared! You can do it, Zoe! You got this, Jared!”. At twelve, I thought that no real kids actually did this — you picked who you wanted to win, and that was that. There was a lot more smack talk in my childhood.

Now that I’ve grown up, I realize that I take a Zoom approach to other people’s success. As long as it’s one of my people getting ahead, I’m happy. That’s not to say I won’t work like crazy so that I’m the one getting the good project, or the promotion, or whatever. But, if a friend or colleague is recognized, that’s almost as good as a victory for myself. You aren’t in competition with your friends or even your co-workers, is I guess what I’m saying. It’s good to be happy for people. ZOOM Games taught me that.

2) The zip code in Allston is 02134.

    True story: I had to mail something to Boston a few months ago, and didn’t have the exact address. I was able to look it up on Google maps because I had an approximate zip code, thanks to that damn theme song that is still in my head after 14 years.

3) Sometimes you just need to learn something by watching people.

I’m talking about ubbi-dubbi. I could lapse into ubbi dubbi this second. But ask me to explain how to do it, and it would be super confusing. However, if you watched a few clips of the Zoom-ers speaking it, you could ubbi-dubbi with the best of them. This definitely happens in the adult world — when long, step-by-step instructions fail you, sometimes the best thing to say is “hey, can I watch you do that once?” and you’ll get it.

4) If someone has an idea, you have to listen to them for instructions. If you’re giving instructions, you have to make people listen to you.

I wish someone had told me that 90% of being an adult with a professional job was just being kind of pushy so that people would do what I need them to do. Since Zoom was a kids-only show, one of the Zoomers would be the one to explain the rules of a game or how to do a craft. Unlike real children, the other Zoom kids listened with rapt attention. I definitely try to do that when someone’s telling me something important. But when you’re the one giving orders, you have to speak loudly and clearly and look the other people straight in the face, just like Keiko and Buzz did – unless you’re working over email, and then you have to do the email equivalent of that.

5) Positivity And Perseverance Will Keep Your Team On Track

While the “being pushy so people do what I need them to do” thing does come up a lot, I much prefer it when people just respond to teamwork. It’s not a cool trait at all, but I’m plucky,  like an adult American Girl doll or a character from a Haley Mills movie. No kidding, one of my higher-ups praised my “can-do attitude” when I took over a book series. Well, you can thank PBS afternoon television for that. Zoomers didn’t give up, even when they were losing or really, really struggling.  And when you’re working with other people – whether a production staff or the other kids on your balloon toss game – your positive attitude translates to everyone else. My work is deadline heavy, and as the editor in charge, I can’t say “this is awful, we’re running so late, and by the way it’s your fault because you forgot to do part of your job.” It works much, much better to let everyone know that we can do this, and that as the one responsible, you’re going to do everything you can to get the job done.

6) Crowd-Source Your Content

PBS knew that adults couldn’t always come up with fun kid activities, so most of the games and recipes were sent in by kids. I can’t prove this, but I feel like it was almost always Stephanie M. from Toledo, Ohio. This is definitely the way to go in most real-life professions, too. I mean the “getting feedback from your target audience” thing, not so much the Stephanie M. thing.

7) Sometimes People Way Older Or Way Younger Than You Have Really Great Ideas

When you’re a kid, the difference between an 8 year old and a 12 year old is HUGE. Zoom spanned a pretty wide age range — you know those kids would not have been hanging out together in real life. Still, everyone learned from each other. If you’re starting out in your career and are way young compared to everyone else (that’s me!), or if you’re working with people half your age, don’t just write off those youths or fogeys. Caroline’s ideas weren’t always bad, you know.

8) Always have a healthy snack after school

Or after work, whatever. Or in the late afternoon, if you keep healthy snacks in your desk drawer. 9 times out of 10, when I hit that mid-afternoon slump, it’s some sort of blood sugar situation and a handful of almonds or an apple perk me right up (sometimes the only answer is caffeine. Zoom didn’t teach me that one. Also you know who couldn’t have nuts? Zoe. She was allergic). Thanks, Cafe ZOOM.

9) It’s OK if you show up in the same outfit as somebody else. Or everybody else.

Whatever, it was a good t-shirt.

10) Learning is cool.

My mom was an elementary school science teacher when I was a kid, so my childhood was all dissecting owl pellets and growing crystals. Although it was no Bill Nye or Beakman’s World, Zoom helped emphasize that learning new things is cool. When you’re working, that means jumping in headfirst to learn about a new task, field, or emerging technology. Props to Zoom Sci for that one.