Okay… I apologize for dropping another video-related post so soon, but this one is worth it.

I don’t know if you guys remember a kids’ show from the 70’s called Vegetable Soup, but it’s undeniable proof that the people working in children’s television at that time were dropping way too much acid and smoking copious amounts of cheeba.
I remember it being on around the same time as The Electric Company, which was pretty tame by comparison. The less-popular Vegetable Soup was different, in that it subjected young viewers to a half hour of psychedelic, drug-inspired animation and terrifying examples of muppetry gone wrong.

eduardo_outerscope1_montage.gifOuterscope 1 : The Trail is Discovered

Frightening and bizarre as it was, Vegetable Soup had some recurring segments that were actually really unique in a very weird way. It’s hard to describe exactly why, but features like Outerscope 1 (shown above) now seem cool in a creepy, faded 16mm movie, Boards of Canada kind of way. Until I looked into all this via Google, I had only fuzzy memories of Outerscope 1 and its frightening, improportionate puppet pilots. Now, I almost wish that they’d stayed back there in the far recesses of my subconscious.

I found a great summarization of Outerscope 1 by, of all people, Nick Sagan (Carl Sagan’s son) on his blog:

“Outerscope” was a serialized puppet show about a multicultural group of kids who turn their clubhouse (or maybe just a bunch of old junk) into a rocketship and explore the universe with it. They meet aliens, have all kinds of adventures, and along the way they learn lessons about tolerance, friendship, etc. Not a bad premise for a kids’ show. Just two problems with the idea.

First, the puppet children were incredibly creepy. They had a certain “dead mannequin” quality, with weird, oversized hands. “Man hands” some might say.

Second problem: These segments are frightening just in their tone. Again, imagine you’re six years old. You watch these dead-eyed big-handed (but otherwise likeable) puppet kids fly off into outer space and get lost. They try to get home, but each episode they just get further and further away. Everything goes wrong, one puppet kid sadly looks at the other and says, “I guess we’re never going home.” End of episode. Sleep tight, kids.

You can read the rest of his great post on Vegetable Soup (which includes more images) here.

It truly is hard to believe that stuff this weird was ever allowed to be shown to children, because it undoubtedly caused thousands of intense nightmares. In fact, I’m willing to argue that shows like this may be indirectly responsible for some of the societal problems we’re facing today. There were several well-intentioned shows like this one, that tried to show white kids that people of other ethnic groups were more or less just like them. That’s an honorable enough message to promote, but their plans may have backfired when they portrayed black kids as terrifying mulatto puppets like the one in OuterScope 1. It could very well be that repeated exposure to stuff like this actually did more damage to childrens’ understanding of people from other ethnic groups than anything else.

Anyway, there are several Outerscope clips available online. If you want to actually see what the rest of Vegetable Soup was like, I think you’ll need to check to see what’s available on eBay.