26 July 2010

Even Nickelodeon Can Scare You: The Third Eye

I don’t keep track of what cable network Nickelodeon does these days (I don’t have children), but even with the new logo I can’t imagine that the channel has altered much from the manic “no adults in the room” style that it started to specialize in during the mid-‘80s. That was the point when Double Dare and its profusion of goo heralded a rethinking of the channel’s former “education-and-imports” format it had used since its launch in 1979.

That’s right: for people who weren’t watching Nickelodeon during its debut years of the early 1980s, it may be hard for them to believe that the mega-children’s brand was originally educational programs done in the mold of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and most of the show were imported from Canada and overseas English-speaking countries. Nickelodeon had very little original programming in the early years, and it purchased UK and Canadian shows to fill out its schedule. Some of these shows did break the educational format, such as a number of bizarre animated shorts and the trippy parody Brit-toon DangerMouse (which attracted many adult fans). And then there was the oddball Canadian sketch comedy starring a mostly young cast, You Can’t Do That on Television!, which proudly contained no educational content at all and instead dumped slime on people . . . The Shape of Nick to Come. (And borrowed, no doubt, from Bunny Rabbit pouring ping-pong balls on Captain Kangaroo.)

That newborn Nickelodeon was at the bottom rung of the ratings, but it really was a strange place, weirder for not actually trying to be weird. But why am I bringing up the cable network here, on Black Gate? Don’t I have Conan pastiches to shred apart?

The reason I bring up Nickelodeon at all is that hiding in the shadows of its young years was a genuinely creepy dark fantasy and science-fiction program called The Third Eye. It ran for only a brief time on the network, but I’m amazed how much I recall about it. Aside from DangerMouse, it’s the only show I remember fondly from my time watching the network when I was in elementary school. It was smart, clever, and scary. Kids who would later grow up on Goosebumps have no idea of what genuinely cerebral terrors they missed out on.

Read the rest at Black Gate. . . .