[April 1992] More Room, More Channels
[This is The Diary Project’s 100th post! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to wax nostalgic about kids cable shows of the 80’s and 90’s.]
Wednesday, April 1, 1992
I am writing this from my own room in our new apartment! I love it here! I love my room! It’s small, but it’s so cozy and perfect that I spend a lot of time here instead of other places. Anyway I get to take a different bus in the morning (I see the same people in the afternoon, though) and on this one, the bus isn’t so dead and boring like it was on the other one.
I am content and happy. (For now!)
From the time I was in third grade, my parents and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment. It was spacious enough that we didn’t feel like we lived on top of one another, and Mom and Dad usually stayed in the kitchen or living room, so I often had a fair amount of privacy to watch television, read, moon over boys, and write. But it wasn’t the same as having my own space. The move would mark the end of my elementary school friendships, though by then I had drifted apart from everyone, anyway. It was also mark the beginning of my love affair with cable television.
Dad’s new job not only meant a bigger apartment, but also a television in my new room, and a cable box with many of the premium channels, though I’d spend most of the next year or two tuned to Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, and MTV. I still remember that thrilling day when it was installed and my viewing options were extended from seven channels to dozens (and now my cable channels go up to the quadruple digits, which still kind of blows my mind because who has that much time??).
I was still loyal to my favorite shows including Perfect Strangers (Balki!), The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (back when Will Smith was rapper first, actor second), and Blossom, but now I had all these additional channels with shows filled to the brim with entertainment. There was Salute Your Short, a goofy Nickelodeon comedy centered around a summer camp, which I found additionally fascinating because I never had the sleepaway camp experience. I became instantly hooked on Nickelodeon’s riveting Canadian teen soap opera, Fifteen, which featured a young, wonky-eyed, annoying character named Billy, played by one Ryan Reynolds (it’s still strange to see him grown up as this big sex symbol)
Ryan Reynold’s wasn’t the only one who cut his teeth on kids shows. I was a big fan of Kids Incorporated, especially reruns from the 80’s The Disney Channel would broadcast. The premise surrounded a band made up of girls and boys, which looked for any excuse to break into song wearing colorful matching outfits made of the shiniest fabrics known to man. I was dazzled by the sequins and by covers of such hits as “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” “Into the Groove,” “Gloria,” and even Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” One of these boys was Mario Lopez, of Saved By the Bell and whatever-the-hell-he’s-doing-when-he’s-not-showing-off-his-abs fame. One of these girls was Stacy Ferguson, better known these days as Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. Another girl was Martika, who ended up with the smash hit “Toy Soldiers” (“step by step, heart to heart…” SO GOOD!) and sadly became something of a one hit wonder. What’s even sadder is that she released an even better, excellent song a few years later, “Love Thy Will Be Done” (written by Prince) but it didn’t find the same success. Oh, and Jennifer Love Hewitt was also on Kids Incorporated (famous for a bunch of shows I never watched).
Then there was The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, or MMC on The Disney Channel. This variety show was more of a star-making factory. It bred Keri “Felicity” Russel, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, JC What’s-his-boy-band-face, and Ryan Ridiculously-Underrated Gosling. What the hell did they put in the water on that show?
Then there was MTV. This is back when the channel showed music videos and lots of them. So many videos that there were shows devoted to specific genres, like 120 Minutes for alternative music, Headbanger’s Ball for metal and hard rock and Yo! MTV Raps for, well, duh. It would be a few months before the first episode of The Real World aired, one of the first reality TV shows, which was initially fascinating in its depiction of “real people” going about their daily routines. Subsequent seasons grew more irritating in the way they became a showcase for vain, attention-starved, monstrously ambitious young people engaging in petty squabbles. Of course, that didn’t stop MTV and numerous other networks from creating shows with just that template. Which is a shame, because that left less room for the music. Music videos were an art form, and MTV was their gallery. Nowadays they’re a marketing tool more than anything and MTV itself… well, I don’t even know what that channel is anymore today. And since I’m not probably not their target demographic, it probably doesn’t matter to them, either.