Less than 2 years after Warner Cable’s QUBE system in Columbus, Ohio created the 1st children’s network, it became successful enough to expand. On April 1, 1979, the Pinwheel Network became national, expanding it to Buffalo, NY. It shared channel space with Warner Cable’s channel Star Channel. The network’s name was changed from Pinwheel to Nickelodeon. To those who don’t know, a nickelodeon is a precursor to a movie theater that became popular during the early 1900’s. It would feature motion pictures, songs, slide shows, and lectures. The word “nickelodeon” was derived from the words “nickel”, the amount of money required to see a motion picture there and “Odeon” the Greek word for “roofed over theatre”.

Most people, including the Nickelodeon network themselves, declare April 1, 1979 to be its foundation day. It was also the day that Nickelodeon had its first logo: a man wearing a bowler hat looking at a Nickelodeon machine.

It was designed by Joseph Iozzi, a New York creative director/designer who today has his own advertising company called Joseph Iozzi Inc. He is also credited for giving the renewed network its name and for its advertising during the late 70’s.

For this review, I’m going to be covering a couple of shows as oppose to one because there’s really not much to say about the majority of them. Any show that was released in the late 70’s or early 80’s is really hard to do research on, especially ones that have not been released for very long. We’re going to cover them real quickly and then get to the real review. You will be seeing this a few times in the upcoming articles, but don’t worry. It’ll give us more time to talk in greater detail about the more well-known Nickelodeon shows, so we apologize in advance if you feel like you’re being gypped. Please be patient with us.

With the growing popularity of the newly named network, new shows were created. One of them was called Nickel Flicks. It’s basically a show that would feature movies similar to Dinner and a Movie or Pick-a-Flick or FX Presents. It only lasted less than a year ending its run in 1980.

Video Comic Book was a show about, well, comic books. It aired originally at a channel at QUBE called Columbus Live! It involved with young teens reading Silver Age DC comic books like The Flash, The Atom, Green Lantern, Sugar and Spice, The Flash, and Swamp Thing and reviewing it. Think of it as a precursor to Linkara’s Atop the Fourth Wall or Comic Book Cast’s comic book review in which the camera would be panned at the comic book and it was read word by word. The only difference is that the teens in Video Comic Book don’t crack funny jokes or overanalyze the scene and/or conversation. The show only lasted for two years ending its run in 1981.

Hocus Focus was a kids’ show that involved with an apprentice wizard named Kryspen and his shape-shifting pet named Oulak traveling from his time period, the Middle Ages, and arriving at today’s time. He enters a museum where he would work at the film department. He uses his job to watch short videos to learn about the 20th century. In the show, there’s also an absentminded professor named Professor Rhombus, a young woman named Daisy, and Kryspen’s magic talking book. Kryspen was played by Brad Williams, who did puppeteer work on Pinwheel and Professor Rhombus was played by Jim Jinkens, who also did puppeteer work on Pinwheel. The show only lasted one year ending its run in 1980.

Now, for the feature presentation: it’s time to get groovy and down with it on America Goes Bananaz.

Originally called Columbus Goes Bananaz, this was the first variety talk show for kids and teenagers. This was the talk show that focused on topics that they wanted to see and hear. It had many segments that consisted of local bands performing live for the audience, music, games, news, interviews, and talent skits.

It had a few hosts during its run, but the ones that people know of the most are Mike Young and Randy Hamilton. Randy had a kind of quirky, yet cheesy personality when it came to interacting with the audience. Looking at it today makes me laugh loud, it’s so corny!

The show was produced by Burt Dubrow, who would go on to produce other successful talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show and The Sally Jessie Raphael Show. You didn’t see a lot of talk shows for teenagers and children back then or even today, so it was very nice to see something like this become a mainstream hit. It tackled with a lot of realistic issues that children and teens were going through and it was great to see a show that talked about them. For me, there were a couple of things that I felt uncomfortable about that I didn’t want to discuss with my friends and family and sometimes, I felt alone. But whenever I see a TV program or movie that discusses about these problems in a calm, realistic way, I don’t feel as lonely. They also had some special guests like Utopia and Arnold Schwartzeneger.

Similar to Pinwheel, America Goes Bananaz traveled to many states to do live shows for teenagers. These live shows turned this local talk show from Columbus, Ohio into a national one. At the time, it was regarded very well and became very popular, however it only lasted for less than 3 years ending its run in 1980. Why is that? It seemed like it was going to go very far. I’m not sure why, but I think of two things. One of them was this! The infamous Disco Demolition Night that occurred in late 1979. By 1980, disco music wasn’t playing in any radio station, there were no disco songs on the radio, and newer music was being popularized. Anything disco during 1980 was officially dead. America Goes Bananaz had a disco aura to it, so it had to go.

Another thing to mention was the ABC teen talk show Kids Are People, Too. It was released around the same time as America Goes Bananaz and it was a more viewed show. It attracted more Hollywood celebrities like Bill Cosby and Brooke Shields as oppose to the local bands that America Goes Bananaz was doing. Eventually, Mike Young and Randy Hamilton would host Kids Are People, Too.

Overall, America Goes Bananaz hasn’t aged well at all when it comes to the set designs and the music. But they were getting to what kids liked at the time, so it’s excusable. As for the format, it was truly groundbreaking for its time to have talk shows for kids and teens. I truly wish that there are more talk shows like this that cater to the problems of kids and teenagers of today, but that’s just me. Check it out sometime.

That’s all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane real soon for some more Nickelodeon. Thanks for reading.


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