my obscure childhood tv memories

We all have those memories from our childhood that we question — did that really happen, or did I just dream that it did? Or did it happen to someone else and over time I just co-opted it as my own memory?

My sisters and I spent a lot of time watching television when we were young, and we have these pretty distinct memories about some of our favorite shows and movies. But after attempting to find someone — anyone — who had also heard of them, I was beginning to believe that a few of these shows/movies never actually existed, rather that they were mere figments of our collective sister-imagination.

So I looked them up (thank you, IMDB and YouTube). Turns out, they do exist…and pretty close to exactly as I remember them.  Here’s a sampling of what was on the tube in the Carver house in the early to mid-’80s.

Love, Sidney:  The thing I remember most about this show is the cute kid and the theme song, which later became a prominent part of the mid-’90s Delta Gamma rush experience at Arizona State University. It was also the first time I ever heard the name Swoosie.  The one thing I don’t remember about this show is that Tony Randall played a gay man who took in a single mother and her young daughter, in what could only be described as a feminine reboot of The Odd Couple. To you DGs watching this, it’s okay…you can sing along:

Double Trouble: This show was mandatory viewing for me and my sister Kasey. I think I may have even at one point wished we were identical twins — they just made it seem like so much wacky fun. I was also enamored by their dance moves (which they had previously shown off at the Rock-a-Hula Luau in Grease 2), because in real life, my sister said I flared my nostrils when I danced. As you can imagine, this show featured a lot of identity-switching antics. Fun fact: the twins are the real-life sisters of actress Katey Sagal (you know, Peg Bundy).

Savannah Smiles: This was one of those ’80s children’s movies that you realize as an adult was really messed up, and kind of inappropriate for a child to be viewing. The premise goes something like this:  a spoiled but ignored little girl runs away only to find herself caught up with a couple of bumbling small-time crooks. They decide to hold her for ransom but, as so often happens, their hearts melt at her adorableness. I don’t really remember how it plays out, but obviously it ends with a police standoff, Savannah’s tearful goodbye to the crooks, Savannah’s tearful reconciliation with her mother and Savannah’s mother demanding a divorce. Sad side note: Little Savannah was the cutest kid ever, and I was curious what happened to her. Turns out Bridgette Andersen met the same fate so many other child actors do: she died of a drug overdose at age 21.

The Water Babies: This movie is nuts, and my sister Kelly and I really started to believe we had made the whole thing up. That is, until I discovered the VHS in the Columbia House movie catalog in 1998. Don’t think I didn’t buy it, and don’t think I haven’t shared it with my students. This movie can only be described as a cross between Oliver Twist (orphan), Mary Poppins (chimney sweep and rich kids) and The Little Mermaid (sea creatures) in a low-rent, live-action/animation hybrid. I was at once terrified and thrilled by it as a kid, but it always annoyed me that Tom, the chimney sweep boy/mermaid, always had on Huck Finn-esque half-pants, even when under water. The movie is apparently based on a mid-19th century children’s story — who knew? I like to think of this scene, in which Tom and a Scottish lobster sing a song called High Cockalorum, as the original Hakuna Matata.

Have you ever seen any of these gems? What TV shows or movies are stuck deep in your subconscious?


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