For those of us pop-culture-savvy folks who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, we know a couple of things to be true: we’ve perfected saying, “They just don’t make movies/TV/music like they used to!” in our most get-off-my-lawn-esque voices. Secondly, when we’re at trivia nights, we usually become instant team MVPs when the most random entertainment-related questions come up. My team still raves about how me knowing Doug Funnie’s middle name (Yancey) clinched a win for us a couple of years ago.
Seriously, the most fun is knowing answers to questions about long-forgotten TV shows. These beautiful little blips in time have also helped me connect with other pop-culture nerds who just kind of “get it.” Here are a few of my favorite “Oh yeah, that existed!” shows of my youth.
Welcome to Pooh Corner (1983-1986)
This show launched the same day as The Disney Channel did: April 18, 1983. Looking back, this show was terrifying. It followed the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, but not in animated form. All the characters were grown-people in costumes, like what you’d see at Walt Disney World, but for 30 minutes straight. And with deader eyes.
As an adult who likes horror as a genre and used to sneak-watch the Child’s Play movies before I was a double-digit age, I’m OK with this. But I can imagine that many children of the 1980s – probably the same ones who weren’t fans of sitting on Santa’s lap – were not.
The Wuzzles (1985)
This show only produced 13 episodes, but I remember Disney Channel airing reruns of them like it was nobody’s business. The Wuzzles followed a group of Care Bear-like friends who were hybrid animals, and named to reflect the two species they represented. The butterfly/bear hybrid was Butterbear, the bumblebee/lion hybrid was Bumblelion, and so on. My personal favorite was Tycoon, who was half tiger and half raccoon and also very wealthy, because puns.
Dumbo’s Circus (1985-1989)
Dumbo’s Circus was another very colorful, fun kids’ show that fit the trend of puppet and/or costumed characters as an alternative to traditional animation. It came on right after Welcome to Pooh Corner, and had a similar setup: everyone dressed in costumes, and with really crazy eyes. I loved it for three reasons. One, it showed what Dumbo was like all grown up, performing in a circus that he founded on his own. Two, it featured a koala ringmaster, and I was obsessed with koalas. And three, the only female character was a cat named Lilli, who was a tightrope performer, and whom I loved. I named my first cat after her. That’s how serious it was.
Under the Umbrella Tree (1986-1993)
This was a Canadian show with puppets as main characters, but it also featured real people – the main one being Holly, whom the puppet characters (Gloria the Gopher, Jacob the blue jay, and Iggy the iguana) lived with for some reason I can’t remember, in an apartment with an umbrella tree inside. This show was actually really cute, and explored lots of the ups and downs of sibling rivalry and living with a roommate. Oh, and the Valentine’s Day episode was the first time I ever remember shipping anyone – and it was a human with a bird, so there’s that.
Lady LovelyLocks and the Pixietails (1987)
The show was in the same vein as Popples, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and Rainbow Brite – recognizable TV shows of the mid-1980s with an accompanying toy line – but it didn’t enjoy the same notoriety that those shows did. It was about a princess named Lady LovelyLocks who continually had to fight enemies to protect her kingdom from meanies who hailed from Tangleland (yes, really – tangles are totally the number-one hair nemesis), along with other heroines like Maiden FairHair and Maiden CurlyCrown. They also got help from the Pixietails, which were little creatures that doubled as hair accessories. As you can imagine, the toy/hair-accessory line this show came from was even more epic than the show itself.
Eureeka’s Castle (1989-1995)
My first reaction to this show was annoyance, because I remember specifically being 4 years old and unreasonably upset that some other show was coming along to bump one of my favorites (a show about a koala, that I think was this show) out of the Nickelodeon lineup. I even made my mom write a letter to Nickelodeon and, bless her heart, she did it.
I eventually came around because this show had everything. It was kind of like Fraggle Rock meets Sesame Street meets Barney and Friends (which didn’t come around until later). My favorite was the bat, Batly. He reminded me of my Sesame Street fave The Count, but he had an added level of hilarity because he was always flying into walls.
Oh, and like any good movie/show of the early 1990s, Pizza Hut was totally on it with the toy game. Here’s a 1990 commercial promoting Eureeka’s Castle toys. You’re welcome.
Adventures in Wonderland (1992-1995)
There are so many adaptations of Alice in Wonderland that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if you were a kid in the early ’90s, this musical TV show might be a contender for you. This version placed Alice in the modern world (like, the ’90s world of bedazzled vests instead of frilly dresses), but she could escape to Wonderland anytime she wanted via her magic mirror. Once there, she confided in all our favorite characters about her IRL problems, and instead of getting stuck, she could sing a song and go home anytime she wanted. That’s what I’m talking about.
This Nickelodeon show just straight-up confused me, and I’m still not even sure it existed outside my nightmares even though Google tells me it definitely did. It was hosted by a guy named Marc Weiner, who spent the 22-minute runtime interacting with audience members and trying to solve the problems of a supporting cast made up of – you guessed it – puppets.
The best way I can describe this Nickelodeon mystery is a mash-up of Pee-wee’s Playhouse and What Would You Do? – the latter of which was hosted by the more recognizable Nickelodeon Marc, Marc Summers, whom we all now know as the Food Network guy. Weinerville somehow lasted three seasons, but all I really want to know is: Whatever happened to Marc Weiner?*
*The Internet tells me he provided the voice for Map and Swiper the Fox on Dora the Explorer.