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Wonderfully Awful: Public Service Awesomeness


a blogumn by Robin Rosenzweig

the_more_you_know2Quick – think of a catch phrase from a public service announcement from the 1980’s! Easy, right? Perhaps you’re hearing a stern bear tell you that only you can prevent forest fires. Or maybe you heard the sound of an egg frying while a voice says, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

Now try to think of a current PSA. Anything come to mind? Aside from the dulcet tones of NBC’s “The More You Know” jingle, it’s hard to think of any current public service announcement that is nearly as memorable as the ones we saw growing up. Are there in fact some truly great PSAs on television right now and we’re all just not filled with enough childlike exuberance to remember them? Or are they just not making them anymore. Regardless, thanks to the magic of YouTube, we can take a stroll down vintage PSA memory lane. See how many spark your memory.

I Learned It By Watching You

Drugs. Apparently they were a big problem in the 80’s. There was a war on them and stuff. Just as parents were discovering their kids stashes and wondering how this could happen to a nice family like theirs, this PSA threw it right back in their former hippie faces. Guess what, mustachioed dad that looks like a mix between the Micro Machines man and Mario of Super Mario Brothers fame – your kid learned it by watching you. In your face!

More 1980’s PSA gems after the jump!

Who Broke My Wiiiinnnndoooow!

The Mormons are known for a great many things. But you probably wouldn’t think that writing a super catchy song is one of them. However, in the 80’s, the LDS produced not one, but two public service announcements about telling the truth that had songs that were so unforgettable that, to this day, I still know the lyrics. I hear that these may have been more regional; I grew up in the Bay Area where these ran nonstop on Saturday mornings. So if you know them, sing along! If not, get ready to be amazed by vintage PSA gold.

First off, an operetta featuring a baseball, a grumpy old man, and – I kid you not – Alfonso Ribeiro.

This one is more of the musical theater variety (Elementary School Musical?) and features a classroom full of kids just ripe for a playground beating. I guess I was always ripe for a playground beating because I can still sing everyone’s parts.

1002 Stupid Things to Do

Now I’m going to get super local on y’all. If you grew up in the Bay Area, you may remember the “Bits and Pieces” vignettes that aired during Saturday morning cartoon commercials on KTVU (Channel 2). As a child, my favorite “Bits and Pieces” segments were the ones featuring horse and dog puppets by the name of Charley and Humphrey. The premise of these was simple: Charley the sailor hat-wearing horse was smart and sensible. His friend Humphrey the bulldog – who always wore an Oakland Raiders shirt and a weird necklace with partially eaten fruit – was not. Humphrey would get into predicaments, and Charley would talk sense. The most famous of this series was a segment detailing why it’s wrong to borrow without asking (or steal, as it were). I know that if I learned anything from this one, it’s that I shouldn’t borrow someone’s antique lamp if I’m prone to allergies.

Feel free to share your favorite vintage PSA gems in the comments section!