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kids shows from the 80s and 90s

The Kids’ Shows of the 80s & 90s We Want Back Again

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American kids may have grown up on Nickelodeon, but it had nothing on Canadian kids’ shows of the 80s and 90s. Sure, they were mostly low-budget, and some were pretty weird, but let’s face it, they were awesome.

It seems like everything is getting a reboot these days. Even The Muppet Babies is making its way back to TV, but with a strange, CGI twist and without Scooter and Skeeter. I say leave the shows alone, they were perfect as-is! But I do love the idea of re-airing these amazing shows of our youth, especially those in the bizarre and beautiful world of vintage Canadian TV.

Here are some shows that shaped our childhoods that we’d love to see make a comeback.

The Elephant Show

Photo credit: throwbacks.com

Sharon, Lois, and Bram were a Canadian staple. Not one of us can say we didn’t get excited at the sound of that flute flourish signifying the impending arrival of the purple cartoon spider. With a combination of amazing music, great guest stars, fun stories, and concert clips (in which I was featured once, no autographs please) this was the perfect show.

Mr. Dressup

Photo credit: thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

There are two types of people in the world: Those who love Mr. Dressup, and those who are dead inside. He didn’t do anything spectacular, just a little talking to puppets, and some simple drawings that would make Bob Ross drool, but he was like family. No Canadian childhood was complete without Mr. Dressup. Bring back that Tickle Trunk!

Under the Umbrella Tree

Photo credit: lockerdome.com

If you were like me, this was the only thing that made being home sick tolerable. It’s not 100% clear what this show was about – three animal foster children? We’re not sure – and the characters were always lamenting about something. But it was good television.

Polka Dot Door

Photo credit: canadiandesignresource.ca

This show was apparently so low-budget that the male human character never saw Polkaroo – because he was Polkaroo. I am embarrassed to say I was in my teens when I figured that one out. The main characters were literally inanimate stuffed animals, who could only be heard by the humans on the show, and only on the second try (“What’s that Marigold”?) It was almost always Imagination Day (ironically.) The trip through the Polka Dot Door to an adventure in the real world was rarely interesting. There is no good reason why this show rocked, but it absolutely did.

Today’s Special

Photo credit: tvo.org

Inarguably the best kids show ever made. Go ahead, fight me on it. Whose first crush wasn’t Jeff? Muffy the rhyming mouse? Yes please. Sam and his high-tech computer? What’s not to love? And if you lived in the Toronto area, you could even visit the store it was set in!

Dear Aunt Agnes


Perhaps one of the more obscure shows on the list. This one isn’t talked about as much, but enjoyable nonetheless. For a while, I thought Heather Conkie was the biggest celebrity in the world. And her Mama’s Family-esque portrayal of Aunt Agnes was bang on.

Harriet’s Magic Hats

Like the current show Franny’s Feet, but better, this show was about a child who is transported to fun places by putting on different hats. Like Dear Aunt Agnes it is a bit less-known, but those of us who did watch it will never get the theme-song out of our heads.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Photo credit: mentalfloss.com

Yup. We all were. That’s what made this show so fantastic. It was scary – but not too scary. The stories were interesting, in their cheesy 90s way. And as a bonus for bringing this back, nearly every Canadian celebrity in our age demographic appeared on this show. Who wants to see Baby Ryan Gosling?

Readalong

Photo credit: rickstv.com

It starred a talking boot. Enough said.

Fred Penner’s Place

Photo credit: alchetron.com

Ah, Fred Penner. The children’s “Red Green.” Who knew shoving a backpack through a log would be so exciting? We’re not sure why Fred had to hike so far into the woods just to talk to us, but it was worth it.

Read All About It

Like the creepy 80s Doctor Who show, this show was strange, suspenseful, sort of scary, and absolutely addictive. It was such quality TV that many of us saw it in school! I’m still not completely sure what was going on, but I just could not stop watching.

Yes, there are lots of great shows on TV for kids now, but can we please bring back some of the grainy, simple shows from our youth? It’s the Canadian thing to do.

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