Lidsville: The Complete Series

Lidsville: The Complete Series

Lidsville: The Complete Series is a must have if only because it was so much a part of the culture of the seventies

Lidsville: The Complete Series

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Some people are just born with a different way to look at the world, a strange, often bizarre vision and the talent to bring this odd take on things to others.

Few have ever had a stranger viewpoint that the brothers, Sid and Marty Krofft. In 1969 they exploded on the television scene with H.R. Pufnstuf, followed the next year by the Bugaloos. Their third series, Lidville, has now been made available in its entirety on DVD. While ostensibly targeted for children, considering the social environment of the late sixties and early seventies, this show quickly became a favorite with the college set, mostly those that experimented in various bio-chemical alterations in consciousness. In other words, Lidville was one of the ‘trippiest’ series ever presented on television, now, then or ever.

The basic plot is of course simple. Mark (Butch Patrick) is in the middle of his summer vacation from school and is visiting a local amusement park. Once there he runs across a magician, Merlo (Charles Nelson Reilly), who is performing his somewhat mundane show. Mark stays behind after the show and picks up the magical top hat to examine it, to his amazement; the hat begins to grow larger. Mark drops the hat; it keeps growing until it is so large that the boy falls through it. The hat becomes a tunnel that brings Mark into a strange world populated by human sized, animated hats and other strange creatures. Mark soon finds himself captured by the bad hats, executioner’s hood, gangster hat etc, and at the mercy of the evil Horatio J Hoodo (also Charles Nelson Reilly), the local head of the bad guys. Mark is not completely alone there; he befriends another prisoner, Weenie the Genie (Billie Hayes) who has to be loyal to Hoodo because he has his magic ring. Okay, can you begin to see why this appealed to people in an altered state of mind? Each week Mark would try to find a way back home to Jackson City, aided by good hats and the less than adept genie. On his way there where obstacles besides the evil magician and his crew, Mark had to contend with the Shampoo River and the Hair forest, not your typical journey home.

While previously largely overlooked this show is imaginative and worked on many levels. Younger children would enjoy the talking hats, the Saturday morning conflict and face paced action. The older set watched for the pure psychedelic magic the show contained. Very young kids may find this a bit too much to take but overall it is good fun for the family. Parents be warned, your children may ask about the strange smile on your face as you flashback to your college days.

Sid and Marty Krofft had a unique style all their own. Their worlds were populated by huge headed creatures, sets that would confound Escher and defy reality. They where often imitated, frequently out rip stolen from. The still get residual checks from McDonnells for their commercials featuring Mayor McCheese, the Hamburgeler and the rest of the characters in McDonnell Land. As you watch Lidsville: The Complete Series you can see how comedian Paul Rubens was greatly influenced for his own television series, Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The Krofft brothers took a new look at the venerable classic literary themes of a stranger in a strange land and the quest for home. Like Alice in Wonderland Mark is a normal boy trapped in the most abnormal settings due only to his curiosity. Find your way home as been a classic even before written literature. After all it is the same theme as used for the travels of Odysseus and Gulliver. Instead of mythological creatures and tiny people Lidsville has talking hats. The basic premise is the same, a lone good character fighting evil and finding allies in a quest to return home.

Many critics complain that all the Krofft series are basically the same. While true on the most superficial level each one had its on unique charms. What most likely prompted this somewhat flawed observation is the Krofft brothers where extremely loyal to their regular troupe of actors and set designers. Many of the characters where voiced by Krofft regulars Lennie Weinrib,Walker Edmiston,and Joan Gerber. Billie Hayes not only played Weenie in Lidsville: The Complete Series but was well known for her portrayal of WitchiePoo in Pufnstuf. The Kroffts where very economical in their productions, many actors took on multiple roles for example. According to an interview I found with Charles Nelson Reilly shots for all shots during Lidsville: The Complete Series using the same sets where filmed at one time. While this was difficult for the actors and somewhat interrupted continuity it did bring Lidsville: The Complete Series in under budget making Lidsville: The Complete Series a prize for the network. Still, Lidsville bounced around the dial mostly because the studio executives where unable to appreciate the gem they had in Lidsville: The Complete Series.

The two main characters will be familiar to fans of sixties television. Buck Patrick is best known as the werewolf child Eddie Munster. At the advanced age (for child actors) of 18 his one staring vehicle, the Munsters was off the air and he extended his time on the tube with Lidsville. Having spent a couple of years playing a werewolf as a normal child he was perfectly equipped for Lidsville: The Complete Series. He could portray a boy stuck in Lidsville in a manner that was convincing. There are no words that can accurately describe Charles Nelson Reilly. He is a comical force of nature, uninhibited, outrageous and unpredictable. He balanced annoyance with comedy like no other actor could. There was really nobody else that could have taken on his roles in Lidsville: The Complete Series. He not only played the evil magician Hoodoo but also his good twin Bruce. Reilly brings both to life in a bizarre way.

Initially Rhino was rightfully criticized for the limited VHS presentation of Lidsville: The Complete Series. It was overly expensive, didn’t contain all the episodes and lets face it, it was only video tapes. Well, they have made up for this in a fashion better than any Krofft fans could have hoped for. There are commentary tracks featuring the Krofft brothers, Patrick, Reilly and Hayes. Also included are great little interviews with the actors that made Lidsville: The Complete Series so unique. Lidsville: The Complete Series is a must have if only because Lidsville: The Complete Series was so much a part of the culture of the seventies.

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