Faerie Tale Theatre: A Closer Look

Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the "Sleeping Beauty" episode as the Prince and Princess.
Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the “Sleeping Beauty” episode as the Prince and Sleeping Beauty.

During the filming of Popeye with Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall was inspired to start a children’s television series in the vain of the classic television show Shirley Temple’s Storybook where fairy tales were at the forefront. The production values and the guest-stars were top notch, and in 1982, Faerie Tale Theatre hit the airwaves. With witty dialogue and cultural references that are relevant even today, it’s amazing how popular this show still is. It’s not just a kid’s show either. Like Shelley Duvall said in her intros, it was meant for children of all ages. What’s more impressive, is the sheer amount of all-star guest appearances that graced the screen. Shelley Duvall and her show had a certain appeal that made actors WANT to be on her show. Past, present, and future Oscar-winning actors like Tatum O’Neal, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Anjelica Houston and Helen Mirren all appeared on the show. Numerous character actors, still working today, such as Conchata Ferrel, Christopher Lee, Harry Dean Stanton, Doris Roberts, and John Lithgow, just to name a few, had screen time. The list goes on and on. You can view lists of episodes with guest stars here. What I find fascinating, is these actors, who were and are well-respected, did a so-called “kids” show and gave full-out, amazing performances. It didn’t matter if the audience was all-children, or adults. Faerie Tale Theatre was a show where the quality of the episodes and the quantity of the guest stars were equally matched, and brilliant. Inspiration from illustrations done by famous artists like Norman Rockwell, Gustav Klimt, and Arthur Rackham helped make the back drops and sets unique to each individual fairy tale. In fact, I doubt that in this day and age, a show like this, of this caliber, would even make it onto the airwaves. The acting was superb and it shows. It probably harkens back to the theatrical training of many of the stars of the show. Christopher Reeve was Julliard trained, Bernadette Peters was a Broadway vet,  and Vanessa Redgrave comes from theatrical family for example.

Below is the beginning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring Oscar-winner, Tatum O’Neal, Emmy-winner, John Lithgow, and Grammy-winner, Carol King. It’s one of my favorite episodes, and it’s timeless in terms of production values and episode quality.  The full series is available on YouTube for free and worth watching.

Time Warp Tuesdays: Volume 1

There are certain shows I wish I could see again. Some I can, thanks to the beauty of Netflix and Youtube, some have been harder to find. But, I decided to compile a  list of shows I loved as a kid that make me want to go back 20 or 25 years. There will be a series of volumes with this in the next few weeks as well, so if you’re thinking of a show that’s not included in this particular list, just wait a while until part 2 for more shows!

Under the Umbrella Tree (1986-1993, from Canada): I LOVED this show as a kid. Imported from CBC in Canada, …Umbrella Tree aired on the Disney channel. Holly (a human), Iggy (an iguana), Jacob (a Blue Jay), and Gloria (a gopher). The show’s title is derived from the fact that the characters live together in a home featuring a prominent indoor umbrella tree.–Wikipedia

Sweet Valley High (1994-1997): Airing on mostly Fox stations and then UPN, this was my first foray into really being engrossed in teen drama. Granted, I watched 90210, but I was so young when it aired that I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t until my preteen years that this show came around, and it was one of my favorites. I also loved that it was originally a book series so I could “read along” with the series.

Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics (1987-1988): Airing on Nickelodeon, this was what I thought anime was for the longest time. There is a special place in my heart for this show. And to be honest, I still enjoy finding clips of this on YouTube. Plus, it dealt with fairy tales, and I’ve always loved a good fairy tale. The quality of this series is amazing.

Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre (1982-1987) : If there were a gold standard for nostalgic television shows, this would be it for me. It was, and still is, one of my favorite series of all time. Ever. With all-star guest stars and wonderfully imaginative production values, this is series that can stand the test of time and be passed down. When and if I have children, they will be watching this on DVD. THAT’S how much I LOVE this show. You can find full episodes on YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. It still has quite the cult following 30 years after it originally aired too.

Welcome Freshmen (1991-1993): Airing on Nickelodeon, I was seven when this debuted, and to be honest, even I thought it was cheesy. At seven. That being said, I’d love to see it again, simply due to the fact that I’d probably understand it more now. Now that I look at the credits, Saved by the Bell & Welcome Freshmen must’ve had the same graphics designer. Oh, the 90s.

Hey Dude (1989-1991): Airing on Nickelodeon, it starred Christine Taylor before she was Mrs. Ben Stiller in her acting/television debut. It also made me want to move to the southwest and live on a ranch. Strangely, it’s also one of the series that made me want to act on TV.