The Japanese have a word: “natsukashii”. There’s no direct English equivalent but the closest I can come up with is “nostalgia”, a fond remembrance of things past. They say that smell is one of the biggest memory triggers – which is why I dedicate a different cologne to each chapter of my life: John Varvatos Vintage for my visits to Japan, Tuscany by Aramis for Montreal, Boss Pure by Hugo Boss was my last season on SGU, Le Male by Jean-Paul Guathier was last year in Toronto (may I never smell it again). Sight is an obvious trigger as is taste (nothing takes me back to my youth like a spoonful of Nutella), but one sense that is oft-overlooked is sound. Nothing says summer evenings sitting in the backyard with my parents like the symphony of mosquitoes sparking against a bug-zapper punctuated by the occasional extended sizzle of a nice juicy moth. But for a real flashback to my youth, it has to be those old t.v. themes that carry me right back to those Saturday mornings I would wake up early to watch a cavalcade of cartoons or those weekday lunches when my sister and I would come home from school to smoked meat sandwiches or Kentucky Fried Chicken. These, ladies and gentlemen, are my Top 10 Natsukashii T.V. Themes:
THE BANANA SPLITS
Sure, in retrospect the characters are kind of creepy, but at the time they were infinitely cooler than those earnest know-it-alls on Sesame Street. They make great use of this theme in an ultra-violent sequence in Kick-Ass.
I think the show went through a bunch of theme songs, but this was the one that would greet me every Saturday morning. I’d wake up just before 8:00 a.m. so that I could be downstairs in time to catch the first in the long line of cartoons. The earlier shows were always the best and, as the morning would wind down, the animated offerings would give way to those Sid and Marty Krofft puppet shows I could never get into.
Every weekday during our elementary school years, my sister and I would walk home for lunch. While my father played cribbage with his boss, we’d go downstairs to eat our smoked meat sandwiches (or Kentucky Fried Chicken with Bubble-Up!) and sit through Max the 2000 Year Old Mouse (a brief necessary evil) to get to The Flintstones. This show was such a cornerstone of my childhood that I took the later watered-down remakes – and, worse, the live action films – as a personal insult.
What the hell were these guys on when they made this show? Extended still frames, endlessly recycled crowd sequences, and hallucinogenic backgrounds all accompanied by a cool Jazz score – it was altogether bizarre and I loved it growing up. “Welcome friend, he’s a yorg”? “Action is his reward.” My writing partner Paul enlightened me once but I can’t remember.
This was must-see viewing in the late afternoon hours between our return home from school and dinner. Even at a young age, I recall being outraged by the fact that, in the original version of the opening theme, they couldn’t even be bothered to mention the professor and Mary-Anne, running through the other characters and then lumping them into “and the rest”. The rest?! The guy made a radio out of coconut shells for godsake!
Unlike Gilligan’s Island, this is a show that still holds up for me. Someday, I’m going to sit down to a marathon viewing of the entire series. Who’s in?
This show was the only bright spot in the otherwise bleak landscape that was Sunday morning television. I used to wake up extra early to watch back to back episodes from 7:30 to 8:30 before the channel gave way to morning ministries and reruns of old Westerns. While the new Batman movies are certainly an improvement over what came before, the Adam West version remains my favorite.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
After watching football all day Sunday (and I do mean ALL DAY – FROM THE 11:30 pre-game show to the final seconds of the Sunday night game), I’d go to school and then, after dinner, do my homework – while watching Monday Night Football. It didn’t matter what loomed the next day – an exam, a presentation, the deadline for a paper – it all took a back seat to MNF. I include two opening themes here, both great, as is the one by Hank Williams Jr. and the new one by Faith Hill. And, yes, now that you mention it, I AM ready for some football.
Another part of the weekday afternoon line-up, I absolutely loved this show as a kid. I’m not sure why, but I think a lot of it had to do with that lovable Sergeant Schultz. One of my biggest pet peeves growing up was not knowing what happened to him after the war. I liked to think that Hogan put in a good word for him and he ended up living out the rest of his days peacefully somewhere in Austria.
Come on. Did you actually think it wouldn’t make the list? Next to being stranded on a deserted island with Ginger and Mary-Anne, I couldn’t think of a better life than going on that five year mission.
Okay, now it’s your turn. What are your top natsukashii t.v. themes?