“What’s a TV show that you remember from your childhood,” we were asked, “that no one you know remembers?” Thus began my hours-long, rolling autistic flail on Twitter.
I knew, immediately, my answer, except that I didn’t because I could not for the life of me remember anything other than the premise, and Google was providing me nothing but additional frustration.
By evening, finally, I’d hit upon the right combination of terms and found it in a decade-old thread on, of all things, a Jehovah’s Witness bulletin board. Behold the glory that is “Outerscope 1”, a regular segment on the PBS show Vegetable Soup, which ran from 1975 to 1978, in which a group of large-handed puppet children manage to cobble together a space capsule out of scrap wood and other junkyard debris and thereby proceed to get lost in space.
Finding the name of the thing then led me to this look at Vegetable Soup a little more generally by Nick Sagan (yes, of those Sagans), and I admit that I’d forgotten most of the rest of the show. I also didn’t realize that it was produced by the New York State Education Department, which would certainly help explain why I remember it at all, being from upstate New York.
Sagan thinks of Yellow Submarine when looking at the surreal opening titles, but I immediately thought of Ralph Bakshi. Sure enough, the sequence’s animator, Jim Simon worked for Bakshi on his Spider-Man cartoon. Also responsible for the original and iconic open titles for Soul Train (this or his work for Sesame Street and Electric Company probably is where you would have seen it), Simon went on to become known as The Black Walt Disney.
I don’t know if the people behind the “Outerscope 1” segments went on to become known as anything.