What is it about kids' shows that open the door for some really disturbing content?
We think of kids' shows as light-hearted, full of funny moments, with some teaching moments palatable for young eyes. But every once in awhile we catch a glimpse of something... and, HUH?!
Here were some of those answers.
And Ms. Frizzle Did Nothing
I remember that episode of the magic school bus when that ginger dude took off his helmet in space after being told not to and his dome turned to ice or something like that. Spooked me as a kid.
It's Real Life
Too many episodes of Hey Arnold. Like finding out Stoop Kid stayed on his stoop because he was abandoned there and was homeless but hopelessly waiting for someone to come back for him. How Monkey Man was mentally ill and also homeless. That one where you learn Grandpa and his sister had a lifelong rift because the only good thing in their life as children, their puppy, got killed by a car in front of them and they each blamed the other. How Lila and her dad are squatters to keep from being homeless. How the kids on the show routinely get mugged.
Or how Mr. Hyun hates Christmas because that's the anniversary of the day he handed his baby daughter off to an American soldier to get her out of the war zone because he wasn't sure they'd survive, then spent the rest of his life working to immigrate to America to try and find her only having the name of the city to work from and ended up missing her whole childhood because he was too poor to hire a private investigator. Until Helga literally sold the shoes off her feet to hire one to make Arnold happy.
Oh, and how Helga is obsessed with Arnold because she grew up neglected by an alcoholic mother and aggressive narcissistic father who only cared about her older sister, and Arnold was literally the first person in her entire life to show her any kindness when, as a preschooler, he offered to share his umbrella because her parents forgot to take her to her first day of preschool and she had to walk in the rain, by herself, with no coat, as a 4 year old in what we can only assume is New York City.
So yeah, that show was supremely jacked up.
There was a story from Chicago's golden age of children's television, at WGN in the 1950s. A chimpanzee was the sidekick to a host, and would do interstitials to Three Stooges shorts. One time they had a guest who had a parakeet that could perform various tricks. Here's the quote from the book:
The bird, perched on the woman's hand, went through a series of of routines as Greyson [the host] and Chatter [the chimpanzee] looked on. In the middle of the act, Chatter suddenly grabbed the bird, bit its head off, and, without missing a beat, placed the carcass back on the shocked woman's hand. As his guest crumpled to the floor, a stunned Greyson stared at his partner and the station cut quickly to a commercial.
What Even IS Britain?
For us in the UK - The Animals of Farthing Wood.
Graphic, gruesome death was a regular feature.
Mr & Mrs Hedgehog getting run over ("whatever you do, dearest, don't curl up"......Squishhhh)
Mr Pheasant is shot dead as he stares in horror at his dead wife, shot earlier, who has been cooked and roasted...
Sinuous the Adder is choked to death by rats
The baby mice are impaled on thorns by a shrike....
There were 24 deaths across 39 episodes, everyone of them a major character...
After School Special
There was a "very special" anti drug episode of the 80's cartoon BraveStarr. In this episode, a couple of kids get hooked on a new drug. At the end of of the episode, one of the kids died from an overdose. 30+ years later and I'm not sure how many Children's Shows even today would kill a kid.
The Problem With Sentient Objects
That episode of Thomas the Tank Engine when Thomas visits the scrap heap where all the dead/dying trains are, I remember watching it as a kid and not even thinking about how Thomas is basically surrounded by a bunch of corpses or people left to die.
Who Knew Gnomes Were So Deep
As a child I remember being fairly traumatised over a series called David the Gnome where he and his wife reach 400 and die together in the finale. They actually become cherry trees intertwined together in the next plain. I remember trying to explain to my mother why I was crying so hard watching the TV but she didn't get it.
Not Just A Wrap
There is an episode of Scooby Doo (one of the ones with Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy only) where they are being chased around a pyramid by a mummy and they beat him by unravelling him. But then when they are leaving they turn round and FOOTSTEPS ARE FOLLOWING THEM IN THE SAND. They run away, footsteps return to the pyramid and then the episode ends. Only example in classic Scooby I think where the monster was real.
Fair to say I've been scared of mummies ever since...I'm in my 20s.
Also, What Even Is Adventure Time?
I think that lemongrab from adventure time was pretty messed up, but especially when he swallowed the other lemongrab after he broke his toy. The other lemongrab screaming in terror as he was being swallowed always got to me when I was a kid, and it still gets to me now.
Yeah, Looney Tunes.....
The Looney tunes where the bulldog I think his name is Cesar or Romeo any way he wants to keep a kitten his owner is already mad so he tried to hide kitten stuff happens and he ends up believing the kitten was baked into cookies and the owner gives him a cat shaped cookie and hes crying puddles of tears and grabs the cookie pretending it's the kitty completely traumatized.