Saturday, 10 October 2020

Beating Each Other Up is Jolly Good Fun

Why do people want to dictate what other people should watch?

Self-appointed censors and watchdogs have been around since who-knows-when, bolstering themselves with “facts” from “experts” which, by an amazing coincidence, just happen to match their own biases. Why it’s their business that I want to tune in Quick Draw McGraw and watch him get shot, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just human nature.

We live in an era where if even one person is offended by something, then that something should somehow be unacceptable to everyone and there are angry demands for elimination. But at what content should the line be drawn? Should there even be a line? Unfortunately, there will never be 100% agreement. Debate on the matter turns into noise and rancour, accompanied at times by complete falsehoods as “proof” someone is correct.

Anyway, any more on this and I will start ranting, which is not the point of this post. We’re going to go back in time, a little over 60 years ago when “advisories” were issued by groups about what they insisted was acceptable and what wasn’t. This is before the 1960s era of protests when the tongue-cluckers decided to become pressure groups and took direct aim at advertisers and networks.

I suspect in the list below, a case could be made for a completely opposite opinion than what is given. Woody Woodpecker is “excellent,” yet in many cartoons he defied and ridiculed authority figures. And I laugh at the idea that “animals beating each other up” is “full of fun” as I suspect some bluenoses today would be horrified with that suggestion.

Readers of the Yowp blog will know I roll my eyes at some of Charlie Shows’ dialogue at Hanna-Barbera, so his fans will no doubt feel vindicated with the piece’s opinion “Tricks with words can lay a fine foundation for language skill.”

It’s a shame more cartoons weren’t mentioned, particularly Bugs Bunny and Popeye as they were syndicated almost everywhere, but other do-gooder groups denounced the violence in Popeye shorts (the inane ones by Jack Kinney, et al, for TV hadn’t been made yet) and Bugs, Daffy and Porky were considered old hat and overexposed. Conversely, critics all seemed to love the Huckleberry Hound Show as it was gentler than the old theatricals made by the very same people.

This appeared in the Des Moines Register of November 22, 1959.

Reflections on TV
P.-T. A. Eye On Series

By Ogden Dwight
HERE is a digest of the "evaluations" by the National Parent-Teacher, official P.-T. A. magazine, of some TV series seen in this region.
These judgments can be challenged, first because they are far too lenient about shoddy production, and second because it can be stated without risk of contradiction that the series considered so far by the P.-T. A. do NOT constitute the things on television that most children watch most.
Where possible, the P.-T. A. comments are accompanied by similar evaluations of the National Association for Better Radio and Television (NAFBRAT), a Los Angeles-based group that has been hollering about bad TV for years. This association almost without exception classes westerns, violents and crime programs as "objectional" or "most objectionable."
Here are the two organizations' comments:
HECKLE AND JECKLE. Animals beating each other up, smashing cars and furniture, catching people in traps, pushing them into wells and dropping things on them . . . suggest exciting ideas for vigorous play. A heap of rubbish. (NAFBRAT: Full of fun and amusement, jolly tricks. Good)
RUFF AND READY. Scenes are those of Wonderland; characters whimsical and elfin. But other sequences are humdrum cartoon staples. Tricks with words can lay a fine foundation for language skill. But there's such a thing as form—in art, however it may be in life—and form begins with unity and continuity. (NAFBRAT: Cunning animals, surprises, tricks, fantastic adventures. Good.)
WOODY WOODPECKER. Incidents usually wholesome, even when absurd. Lovable little animals' simple, honest code might work for children as well. Far too noisy; otherwise imaginative. (NAFBRAT: Hilarious, clever, noisy. Excellent )
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. Entertaining, meaningful. Realistic enough, never commonplace; children learn to value each other more truly, and parents learn, too. Regular viewing for all families, to take into their heads and hearts. (NAFBRAT: Sympathetic, sensible, well-drawn, well-plotted, completely believable, most commendable. Excellent.)
REAL McCOYS. Plots are pretty silly, but this loving, industrious, hopeful farm family is as American as gingerbread. Earthy humanity, faithfulness to reality, respect for work, differences of opinions, compassion, courtesy—wholesome.
SEA HUNT. Pictures of underwater life and action are accurate, detailed and awesome. Plots lean to the sensational, but are auxiliary to setting. Recommended.
WYATT EARP. Lesson to be learned from TV westerns—good guy shoots straighter, kills deader than bad guy. Another way to make right prevail is to enforce it with violence, not invoke the law. Quick instruction on how to beat a man's face into pulp, with another trait added—insolence. A show for the whole nation to view with alarm.
BAT MASTERSON. Glittering with sin; for adults of certain tastes, not for children.
77 SUNSET STRIP. Less violent than other crime shows, no less sensational. In fear and frenzy people rush about committing and solving crimes, falling in and out of something they call love, dropping into bars to plan a robbery. They batter or caress each other, with hands that itch for money, prestige or power. Wisecracks and jive talk rattle with meaningless monotony. False glamour of such scenes may be dangerous to the immature; how are children to know they don't portray a real or desirable world?
WHIRLYBIRDS. In view of the regularity with which the helicopter hirers prove to be felons fleeing from justice, one might wonder why the young pilots never ask for references. But once this implausibility is accepted as a necessity of plot, everything is straight, clean, absorbing adventure. Violence is not prominent; heroes are capable of rising fully to crises. Helicopter itself becomes a character. (NAFBRAT: Element of crime makes it unsuitable for children. Objectionable.)
ON THE GO. Free from sensationalism or pressure, it is usually entertaining, occasionally touching, sometimes a little dull. We can learn from these expeditions, but without proper background or interpretation, the information may be as superficial or even false as back yard gossip. Not intended for children; for adults, at best it is informative, at worst a cut above listening in on the party line.
Postscript: One of the big reasons TV is in such low esteem is that evaluators and viewers make too many excuses for it.

Despite that “low esteem” and any “excuses,” people watched television anyway. They didn’t care so long as they were entertained. Perhaps that’s human nature, too.


  1. Michael Barrier noted in his book that there was a political aspect to the praise of the mild-mannered UPA cartoons of the 1950s in conjunction with the disparaging of the Warners' style cartoon violence (even if the true target of the praise and criticism was actually Disney), to the point that the entertainment value of the cartoons themselves were immaterial at the end to the studio labels themselves that were on the cartoons. But there were some people who truly thought the violent cartoons were bad for children (in part because they thought other parents didn't know what was good for their children).

    That didn't go away after the theater-goers and the CBS television viewers rendered their decisions on UPA's post-Hubley output, and Columbia decided they could get the same results at a much lower cost with Loopy de Loop -- it simply moved over into the TV cartoon world at the same time as Hanna-Barbera were revving up their production and as the old theatrical cartoons were making their way onto network and syndicated packages. And it took a better part of a decade for that mindset to really take hold, where the violence in the new made-for-TV cartoons was muzzled (Bill & Joe's foray into Saturday morning super hero efforts in the 60s had devolved down to something like "Super Friends" by the early 70s) and those horribly-done edits started showing up on the Warners efforts when "The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour" went to CBS in the fall of '68.

    That's been the standard for the past 52 years, to the point in 2020 HBO Max is OK with Elmer hunting Bugs with a scythe, but not with a rifle.

    1. Those cartoons were for CHILDREN?(this applies to the TV ones,too, at least both Hanna-Barbera and Jay Ward Productions/P.A.T./Gamma,too,in my book.:))

      Take care.

  2. "Glittering with sin"? There's your promo slogan, Bat Masterson producers.

    Never heard of On the Go, and can't find mention of it online.

    1. Funny what a number of years can do. " Bat Masterson " now runs on FETV ( *Family* Entertainment Television ) on Saturdays. By the 1990's, when " The Bugs-Tweety Hour " was running on ABC along with " School House Rock ", some of the cartoons were edited so poorly, if you hadn't seen the cartoon before, you would have no idea what was going on.

  3. In light of this subject, I wish you'd comment some time about the "neutered" Tom & Jerry that Hanna-Barbera provided to ABC in 1975. To look at the "classic," fluid T&J cartoons of the 1940's and '50s, and then watch them in their '75 version, is to find it astonishing that they were made by the same creators. Of course, the TV watchdogs can take the credit for the unfunny '70s version.