1980s sitcoms bring back comedic nostalgia

Campus Times
March 16, 2001

by Jazmine Ponce
Features Editor

This past weekend I allowed myself to be consumed by the Nick at Nite 80's marathon where they were showing some of my favorite TV shows of yesteryear. "Ah good times, good times." While watching these shows into the wee hours of the night, it allowed me to recollect on the shows of my youth and realize that there are also oddball commercials out there.

Watching them now, 13 or so years later made me wonder how some of these shows stayed on the air and why some did not stay longer.

While enjoying the plights of a preppy rich boy in "Silver Spoons," it made me think of "Punky Brewster," the exact opposite. Thinking about it now, it was a rather sad show, a girl gets abandoned in a supermarket by her mother and continues to live homeless until a friendly old man takes her in.

I remember as a young girl everybody thought that Punky dressed "rad" with her odd, mismatched shoes and colored socks. In reality, she probably had mismatched items because she was homeless and found her shoes out of a dumpster making swanky hobo clothing chic. Who names their kid Punky anyway?

Plus I noticed in all these shows there was token "just say no" and "learn to read" messages and "do not drink bleach" or "play in a refrigerator" stories. Remember when Punky and her friends were playing and one of them tragically got stuck in a refrigerator? How dramatic. Or it seemed everybody had some cousin, friend or stranger who just did not know how to read and miraculously learns by the end of the show because it is just that easy.

Or remember in "Diff'rent Strokes" when Arnold, Willis and Kimberly got kidnapped by a crazy pervert and Arnold escaped and had to go under hypnosis to find out where they were? What was the message there, when in doubt use hypnosis? And is it just me or did Mr. T guest star in every single 80's sitcom?

I used to and still love the well written "Square Pegs." It was one of the best teen shows of the 80's. Imagine a mix of John Hughes movies and modern day teen shows, plus a pre "Sex and the City" Sarah Jessica Parker and cool guest stars like Bill Murray, Devo, the Waitresses and KROQ DJ Richard Blade. It was canceled after 20 episodes because it was a "totally, totally different head." (a homage to the character Johnny Slash).

The Peeps commercial seems to haunt me for some reason. For those who may not be familiar, Peeps are those gooey, marshmallowy, neon-colored bunny and chick-shaped candy that frequent around the Easter holiday. It seems that no matter what, they are always bought and never eaten. Are there people waiting all year for them? I mean does anyone go, "Oh my gawd, Peeps I gots to have them," and then buys mass quantities? In the commercial the Peeps are sliding around a stage a la Vegas show accompanied by some snazzy music. Why? Who are the Peeps competitors?

Are Peeps sales so low that they need to dish out money for a commercial? It is not like they have to make new Peeps every year they all have the expiration date of a Twinkie, which is never. How desperate are the Peeps manufacturers?

Some of what I have said may or may not make sense. Maybe it is my media drenched warped memory that keeps collecting nonsense and pop culture references. For those of you reading, who do not remember or did not own a TV between the years of 1980 and 1990, I give you permission to come up to me and ask "Whatchoo talkinabout Jazmine?"

Jazmine Ponce, a junior journalism major, is features editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at jponce@ulv.edu.