Calling all Baby-Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Mellenials who grew up in the Christian bubble. It’s time take a little walk down memory lane.
4. Davey & Goliath
This was way before my time. This was way before most of our times. The first D&G episode was created in 1960. Produced and financed by the United Lutheran Church in America, D&G became a cultural force. Three million people watched D&G at it’s height.
D&G episodes dealt with important life lessons and even helped explain theology in a way that was relatable to children. The show holds up surprisingly well even for being off the air since 1975. The show also featured black characters, which is something that even shows today often fail to do.
The production value was as good as it got in its time, and even now looking back, the claymation is truly beautiful.
I’m pretty sure Gerbert played on The Family Channel on Sunday mornings as the Blackshear family was getting ready for church. Gerbert was the product a guy named Andy Holmes who used the puppet to entertain kids in the hospital in Abilene, TX.
Gerbert the show had relatively high production value, especially for its time. The show couldn’t help itself and often included musical interludes lead by actors that most likely were church members who had nothing better to do after church one Sunday but put on an ill-fitting costume and memorize a few lines. Nevertheless Gerbert communicated concepts of Christian morality without being too preachy and with relatively little camp.
2. McGee and Me
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s a Christian bookstore was magical alternative world. They had T-shirts like any store at the mall but these took the logos of the mall T-shirts and christianized them. Golds Gym became Lords Gym (It took me a really long time to understand what that shirt was parodying and who can blame me, it doesn’t even rhyme), Coca-Cola became Jesus Christ (in Coca-Cola font), and so on and so forth. There was music too, music of every genre that the secular music store had, and many times with very similar cover art, but this was ‘christian’ music.
Then there was the VHS section. It was probably 1/20th the size of a video stores selection, and let me tell you, it got weird. Budgets were low, writing was bad, and puppets abounded. It’s amazing that amongst the riffraff we all stumbled into McGee and Me.
I dare say that McGee and Me could stand toe to toe with any childrens television programing of its time. It was well written, mostly well acted, and the opening credits featured a Goldberg machine that was (ostensibly) created by the main character who was wicked smart and an amazing artist. I was neither of those things but I liked the idea of being those things so suffice it to say that 7-year-old me was definitely on board.
M&M featured animation on top of live acting which in retrospect was probably a respectable technological feat in 1989.
How did this get made? I mean seriously. How did it get funded? How did someone have the vision to bring christian programing not only up to date, but in many ways lead the way for secular programming?! Veggie Tales debuted in 1993. That’s right 1993! Remember Toy Story was released in 1995! Computer animation was still in its infancy at this time. VT must have cost a fortune back then and had some very intelligent, and visionary people behind it (which reminds me, Phil Vischer, please come on Seminary Dropout).
I think VT was the first christian programing that’s almost as fun to watch as an adult as it is for a child. Pop culture references and clever puns abound. You’re kid won’t catch them, but you will.
VT was so good that secular programming wanted them. VT was on NBC at one point with the overtly religious content edited out, and now a reiteration of Veggie Tales (Veggie Tales in the House), runs on Netflix.
Before Bob & Larry plush toys became ubiquitous and VT took over your dvd collection, VT was a clever and fun show with the highest production quality around.