By Raquel Stecher
As a child of the 1980s, when I wasn’t playing with my Cricket doll, collecting My Little Pony toys, or outside bouncing on my Pogo Ball, I was glued to the television set. And the ‘80s was a fantastic decade for all sorts of wonderful and weird children’s programming. In our April #DVDChat, which I hosted, we all reveled in the nostalgia of our favorite classic TV shows. It was great to see what shows people remember fondly.
For me, my #1 favorite TV show as a kid was Punky Brewster. I really wanted to take a trip back to that era and revisit the character I idolized so much so I loaded up my DVD Netflix queue with all the available seasons of the show. I’ve been working my way through each DVD. It brings back happy memories, but also makes me mourn that bygone era of my youth.
Luckily for ‘80s kids like me, there are plenty of shows from that decade available on DVD Netflix for rental! So load up that time machine… eerrrr queue, and get watching!
I’m saving the best for first because Punky Brewster was the girl who turned my world around. I absolutely idolized her. Abandoned by her mom at a supermarket, Punky and her sidekick, a golden retriever named Brandon, meet Henry Warnmiont (George Gaynes), an old curmudgeon who is perfectly content to be alone until Punky wins him over. They become a family and the series follows their adventures with their friends Betty, Cherie, Mike, Margaux, and Allen. The story was set in a rough neighborhood in Chicago (but actually filmed in a rough neighborhood of Los Angeles).
Punky herself was a fantastic role model for kids, especially young girls. She was opinionated, free-spirited, dressed the way she wanted, and cared about others. She taught kids about the dealing with bullies, CPR, and saying no to drugs! We never did find out what happened to her mom though.
Inspector Gadget, outfitted with a slew of high-tech gadgets, was a bumbling but well-meaning bionic police inspector. This show had a decidedly 1960s feel and was mostly likely inspired by Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther movies. There were so many fun characters on this show including the evil Dr. Claw, Chief Quimby, and Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny, who was super smart but sometimes too smart for her own good, and her faithful dog Brain. The show inspired spin-offs and a movie starring Matthew Broderick.
Woo-oooh! What ‘80s kid didn’t want to take a dive into Scrooge McDuck’s money bin? This animated series followed the exploits of brothers Huey, Dewey, and Louie and their incredibly rich Uncle Scrooge. It had a great theme song, a fantastic hook, and fun Disney characters. I was hooked on every episode and wanted to see what thrill seeking adventure they would go on next.
Bouncing here and there and everywhere! Disney’s Gummi Bears were medieval bears who were powered by Gummi berry juice, a potion that gave them the ability to bounce to incredible heights. They live in hiding in a hollow tree called Gummi-Glen because evil humans and ogres want to get their hands on that magical potion. Members of the Gummi family all have great names like Zummi, Gruffi, Grammi, Tummi, Suni, Cubbi, Chummi, and Gusto. A young teenage boy Cavin, a squire for the King’s court, and Princess Calla are the Gummis’ trusted human allies. This show had a lot of energy, some great historical elements with the medieval theme, and the best theme song of all time (there is no argument here… it’s the best.)
Jem was excitement, adventure, glamour, glitter, fashion, and fame. She was truly outrageous! And the concept of the show was indeed truly outrageous. A couple of years ago, I decided to rent some old episodes on DVD Netflix and re-watching them blew my mind. Jem is the alter ego of Jerrica Benton, a young woman who runs an orphanage and just inherited a major music label Starlight Music. Thanks to some holographic earrings that connect her to a computer named Synergy, she transforms into Jem, a pop star.
She has to keep her identities separate from each other, much to the dismay of her confused boyfriend Rio, and she also has to deal with the evil machinations of the rival band The Misfits. You got a lot on your plate, Jem/Jerrica. As a kid I was drinking the Jem Kool-Aid by the gallon. I absolutely adored this show. I had all a complete set of Jem and the Holograms dolls and matching set for The Misfits, clothes, cassette tapes, the works!
By the Power of Greyskull! What ‘80s kids wasn’t glued to the adventures of He-Man (Prince Adam) and his twin sister She-Ra (Princess Adora)? He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a 1980s phenomenon and its spin-off show She-Ra: Princess of Power was a hit with young girls like myself. Prince Adam is transformed into He-Man with the magic of the Sword of Power. He and his allies defend the kingdom from the evil Skeletor. Princess Adora transforms into She-Ra with the Sword of Protection and is guided by her talking horse (who transforms into a flying unicorn) Swift Wind/Spirit.
There is a whole complicated backstory about the fantastical world of Eternia and in recent years there has been a renewed interest in these stories. With the fantastic cast of characters, these made for great action figures back in the ‘80s of which I collected many!
Book ending one of the greatest decades for entertainment was the premiere of Saved by the Bell. This classic high school comedy made the stars all household names. As a kid I remember me and my classmates were always talking about Zack, Screech, Slater, Lisa, Jessie, Kelly and Mr. Belding. The show started with Hayley Mills as Miss Bliss but the series evolved to showcase the high school students and to appeal to a youthful audience. The show ran into the 1990s with 4 seasons and 86 episodes.
Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past or find her on Twitter @RaquelStecher and @ClassicFilmRead, Facebook, and Instagram.