Puppets & Computers: The Best Christian Children's Programming From The '80s & '90s
Any child growing up in a religious home in the '80s and '90s had a glut of entertainment options, keeping them satiated with moral, Christian music, television shows and video series, geared to most every youthful age group. I grew up straddling both sides, so my world view early on was colored by secular and religious messages, namely healthy doses of MTV and Kids In The Hall, making for a variety of interesting experiences as we got older.
Most every secular form of media aimed at adolescents had it's own Jesus-loving, born-again counterpart. If you liked the Beastie Boys, there was the God-fearing DC Talk to act as the Christian alternative. You like Sesame Street, various variations of Muppets and other Jim Henson-created series, that had "ulterior" brainwashing motives? There were plenty of Bible-quoting puppets for you on TBN. Is Saturday Night Live too worldly? Tune in to Fire By Nite.
All of these shows were wholesome and served up life-lessons, and the best thing about them when I look back now, wasn't the early indoctrination into a contradictory man-made movement. It was the lack of commercialism involved. I never heard McGee, Gospel Bill, or Mr. Whitaker trying to sell me cereal or toys. Sure, later on shows like VeggieTales would make an overt killing on merch and DVD sales, but at least for a few years we were safe from the grips of General Mills and Mattel.
These are 15 of our favorite Christian children's shows from growing up born-again. I may not look like I grew up wearing shirts with Bible verses emblazoned across them, and drawing pictures of David killing Goliath for fun on a Saturday afternoon, but rest assured, I probably gave my life to Christ every weekend for years. Just in case He saw me peeking at that Kathy Ireland Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue at Kroger.
The Gospel Bill Show
Each episode featured Sheriff Gospel Bill and his friends Nicodemus, Elmer, and the lovely Miss Lana dealing with life in the wild west. The music videos were the best.
The Flying House
Christian Japanimation, with a flying house traveling to biblical times to teach valuable history lessons.
Psalty, pronounced like Psalms, was a anthropomorphic hymnal, like the Kool-Aid Man. Lots of singing involved of course.
Colby was a human-sized computer that basically had the Holy Spirit downloaded into him, and taught kids about the Lord. Today, he would be the size of a pack of cigarettes, or just a downloadable app.
McGee & Me!
McGee was created by young, buddy cartoonist Nicholas, and they got in adventures together, real and imagined. So he was delusional, or it seems that way almost 20 years later.
This was a newer show, featuring Willie Ames as superhero fighting evil. Cool costume, but an odd choice for a leading man.
Gerbert was an orange child puppet with a weird, old lady voice. We thought we dreamed up Gerbert until we found a trove of his videos on YouTube.
Fire By Nite
FBN is probably best-known for the episode dealing with AIDS and hideous gays on it's show-within-a-show, Family First. Plenty of Petra appearances and mullets to make for delightful YouTube fodder.
More Christian Japanimation, with two kids, a robot sidekick, a dog, and a computerized Bible hybrid that sent the group through time. Man, in retrospect, Christians loved computers in the '80s, putting them in any show possible, making them god-like entities.
The Jay-Z of Christian children's programming, crossing over in to almost all forms of mass media. I once saw a girl with tattoo sleeves with a few of the characters inked on her leg.
More like Sesame Street than anything else, with learning numbers and letters, replaced with the love of the Lord, and less intricate puppets.
This one was before my time, but I remember seeing the videos at Sunday school, eating cookies and drinking orange juice. No, we weren't giving blood. And yes, it was based in a factory.
Adventures in Odyssey
Odyssey was a bit more mature, with the story lines geared toward life lessons, and not so heavy handed on the God stuff. Pretty animation too.
The best and worst thing about Circle Square was the creepy lip-syncing going on, with almost no effort on the part of the child cast. They must have all had guns to their heads off camera, with puppets who were also computers with their felt hands on the triggers.
Davey & Goliath
The OG of Christian kids television, D&G was created by Gumby mastermind Art Clokey who passed away just last year. This one still sucks us in on Saturday afternoons, and still warms my dark heart.
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