That’s the problem with the idea of “cool” — everyone defines it differently. And in the nerdverse, it’s easy to get confused. Sometimes the nerdier, the cooler. Sometimes the nerdier … well.
We’ll just stick with cool for now.
Oddly, sharing our ideas of cool with our children will inevitably lead to them thinking we are giant nerds. And they’re right, to a degree. But we will soon be vindicated, as they will grow into adults who share nostalgia with their children who will, in turn, call them giant nerds. Somewhere along the line, though, we sometimes make connections with our kids that chip away at their cool exteriors, and they actually find something to like about our nerdy proclivities.
As a kid, I was infatuated with the Krofft shows, chief among them Land of the Lost and the Krofft Supershow.
The Krofft Supershow ran for two seasons (1976-’77) before changing format. It is this early incarnation that I remember most fondly. It really was a geek’s paradise, with over-the-top ’70s pop (many of the songs were written by the Osmonds) and costumes right out of Superfly.
As a budding musician, I always looked forward to the musical segments featuring the show’s hosts, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. Comprising Kaptain Kool (Michael Lembeck), Superchick (Debra Clinger), Turkey (Mickey McMeel), Nashville (Louise DuArt) and Flatbush (Bert Sommer), the Kongs struck that delicate balance between nerdy and cool, at least in my tiny brain. Looking back, I get that the tunes they sang were cheesy as hell, but right in line with the radio rock of my generation. (When I played the following tune for my 6-year-old, she exclaimed, “I like their music. I think kids would like this.”)
Beyond the musical elements of the show were the ultra-nerdy mini-segments like Wonderbug, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and Dr. Shrinker. Falling either into the sci-fi or superhero (or both) categories, the segments were cheesy, too, but in the way that all kids programming is.
And, of course, I had a secret crush on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. (Still do.)
Outside of Wonder Woman, they were the first female superheroes I was hipped to. I got the idea that women were powerful and smart, and that girls were more than just stupid sisters and idiot classmates. It was a message that I chose to ignore when convenient, but deep down, I knew girls were the shit.
Wonderbug, a variation on the whole Herbie the Lovebug thing, was another favorite of mine. Here, a junky Shlep car is magically transformed into a flying dune buggy for hipsters.
Goofy adventures were always on tap, but I was fascinated with the whole dune buggy phenomenon of the ’70s. All I cared about was watching Shlep turn into Wonderbug, then race around chasing bad guys. And, for some reason, I found Jack Baker’s Jimmie “JJ” Walker impersonation rather funny.
Finally, Dr. Shrinker played on the wonderful tropes of sci-fi and horror films, with a mad scientist and his kooky dwarf assistant (Billy Barty). Again, the storylines were fairly innocuous, but as a child, I was loving the whole Dr. Frankenstein vibe.
Introducing your child to a show like this has its dangers. Of course, the wardrobe is the most off-putting aspect of my generation, though I still think it’s magnificent. The music, on the other hand, has its moments. Though quite dated, in the right setting, a child of the new-thousands can find something to like about it. My kid did.
But then, she’s a little weird.