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The Magic Garden
January 13, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

"This is a garden of make believe, a magical garden of make believe where the flowers chuckle and birds play tricks and the magic tree grows lollipop sticks." - If you were a kid in New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania from 1972 to 1984, chances are you watched The Magic Garden.

From the opening theme to the closing song, Carole Demas and Paula Janis transformed a small TV studio into half an hour of childhood glee, replete with jokes, acting out stories (or simply telling stories), singing songs, and saying "hello" in a different language. Demas and Janis are still performing as a folk duo, but as a recent NYT article pointed out, adult fans are more psyched about songs from The Magic Garden:

Over the years, Ms Janis said, fans have passed along much weightier messages that are sometimes difficult to hear. “They say things like, ‘I became a musician because of you,’ ” she said. “ ‘I grew up better because of you.’ ‘I had a terrible childhood, and my only half-hour a day of friendship was with you.’ ”

Though it was not a bargain she or Ms. Demas originally signed up for, Ms. Janis said she now understood why fans had so much invested in “The Magic Garden.”

“You’re taking them back to that time and place where things must have been really rough, and you were a little circle of warmth and safety that they’ve never forgotten,” she said. “I don’t think Barney is going to get any fan letters like we did.”
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (36 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Just as an HTML point: the "stories" link will only start at 2:20, as it's intended to, if you open the YouTube page - if you open it in the pop-up window, it starts from the beginning instead. For me, anyway, that was the case.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


*gasps*

Thank you!
posted by Asparagirl at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2010


THIS IS GREAT. Thank you so much for posting. I loved Paula and Carol as a kid... I think I even saw them live..
posted by capnsue at 10:12 AM on January 13, 2010


The closing theme song has "hope you have a shiny day" as a repeated lyric, and I was thinking hmmm, early use of a Whedonism? And then I checked Wikipedia and yes, Joss Whedon did grow up in NYC during the years this show was on the air on local television.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


They still have the Magic Tree, but a lot of the props were lost.

....I wonder if the Chuckle Patch is still there...
posted by mephron at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2010


Asparagirl: "*gasps*"

That.

I had totally forgotten the show. So this post was like a bulimic binge on a boxful of madeleines.

Even in my latency period, I had "special" feelings for Carole. But then I had a crush on Lindsay Wagner too.

And do I feel despairingly old now that Ms. Wagner is selling beds to the "can't get a good night's sleep any more" demographic? Why, yes. Yes, I do. Thank you for asking.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2010


Oh WOW. I remember this show and the Hello song from when I was a kid, growing up in Brooklyn. What an awesome post! Thank you. :)

I had no idea that The Magic Garden was shot at WPIX. Interesting.
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on January 13, 2010


I used to love this show. It was like going to a warm and fuzzy summer camp for half an hour every day.

And how about that video game you used to be able to play by watching WPIX and shouting "PIX! PIX!" over the phone? It was like Space Invaders or something, and the caller would have to shout "Pix!" to make the shooter shoot at the aliens.
posted by Tin Man at 10:37 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid, the Magic Garden was the #1 perk of going to visit my grandparents in New Jersey. One week, every year. It was mesmerizing; the fact that there are some episodes out on DVD made me as giddy as I was each year as the first appointed hour approached.

DVDs AND cast albums? My ipod needs the Hello song.
posted by julen at 10:43 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don’t think Barney is going to get any fan letters like we did.
Why not? Obviously not Barney himself, but the people behind the show - why not?

I'm not necessarily disagreeing - I don't really know much about Barney. The little exposure that I have had to it leaves me with the impression that it is puerile. But I am not a small child, and "puerile" to me is obviously great to many young children.

Also, when I was a small child, I thought the Magic Garden was puerile, too (although I sincerely doubt that I knew the word "puerile"). Why does she not think that there will be adults who remember Barney just as fondly as some today remember the Magic Garden?
posted by Flunkie at 10:50 AM on January 13, 2010


WHOA.

I had completely forgotten this. Thanks!
posted by codswallop at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2010


Hope you had a good, good time...da, da...
posted by horsemuth at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


loved Magic Garden when i was young. awesome!
posted by frankbooth at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2010


I don't remember this at all and I watched a lot of TV during those years!
When was it broadcast? Saturdays? Sundays?
posted by madajb at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2010


Weekday afternoons. I believe it was between 2 and 2:30, but I could be wrong.
posted by zarq at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2010


Do I get any props that, while in elementary school in the early 1980s, Carol and Paula came to our classroom and did songs for us? I remember us asking all these questions about how they looked different than TV, since none of us understood any of that WPIX magic.
posted by jscott at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2010


Also, when I was a small child, I thought the Magic Garden was puerile, too (although I sincerely doubt that I knew the word "puerile"). Why does she not think that there will be adults who remember Barney just as fondly as some today remember the Magic Garden?

I've been watching a lot of programs aimed at preschoolers lately, because my kids are turning two and we're trying to figure out what shows we want to introduce them to. Right now they're watching a handful of Baby Einstein videos, Jack's Big Music Show and Sesame Street as well as Dora and the WonderPets, primarily because they get only a half hour of tv each morning and night, and the latter two are what's on Nick Jr. before bedtime. They also sometimes watch a show called "Bounce."

I watched 6 or 7 episodes of Barney on OnDemand about a month ago. The show is relentlessly upbeat, vaguely educational and has some catchy, repetitive and easy-to-remember tunes. But from my perspective as a parent, I'm convinced it won't really stimulate my kids' imaginations the way The Magic Garden did. TMG had stories, songs and games which were focused directly at the viewer, so they could feel like they were part of the story. The hosts would greet their viewers by name. Barney does some of this to a lesser extent, but it's just not as engaging.
posted by zarq at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2010


I used to watch this all the time when I was little. I can't believe I remember every word from their opening and closing songs.

Fun Fact: Carole Demas was the original Sandy in the Broadway version of "Grease"!
posted by cazoo at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I totally didn't remember this show from the title, but the second I saw the opening theme video it all came flooding back. Neat.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2010


Never forgot TMG. Never. Never forgot the "Fox & Crane @ Dinner" story, our it's message of "Don't be a douchebag, because what goes around comes around" (I paraphrase).

The book 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? pointed out specifically how and why it was a fucked up time for our generation to be kids.

I'm not surprised that we as a generation love our Saturday morning cartoons and Magic Garden. The outside world was full of Roman Polanski raping 13-year-old girls and endless repetitions of "Yours is the first generation that's going to not do better than your parents". Yeah, the '70s was not a good time to be a kid.

Of course, now we're stuck in a generational limbo between aging boomers who don't want to retire and make room, and the Millennial generation who want us to move out of the way. We're no longer the young upstarts, nor are we the old guard.

And when the Millennials get told "You're the first generation that's not going to do better than their parents..."

Hello! Um, there's a generation out here already living that reality... Hello, anyone?

Great post.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, The Magic Garden aired at a time when there were only a very few live-action television shows for pre-school aged children. In NYC, we had 7 VHF channels, and of course, no 24 hour networks devoted to children's programming. Cartoons were everywhere, but for live action shows there were only a few options. The Children's Television workshop produced Sesame Street (pre-Elmo!), which aired each morning. Their alternate show was The Electric Company, aimed at elementary school-aged children.

With those limited choices, it's no wonder TMG stimulates such nostalgia.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


With those limited choices, it's no wonder TMG stimulates such nostalgia.

Well I can't speak for everyone, but my first crush as a wee babe was with these hippie chicks. They were like a birth of fresh air if you ware an awkward young swain of around, oh, 6 living in the sterility of the suburbs.
posted by xetere at 12:03 PM on January 13, 2010


Weekday afternoons. I believe it was between 2 and 2:30, but I could be wrong.

Ah, I would have been in school.
posted by madajb at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2010


I lived in Jersey from 1981-1987, and we got WPIX on cable, but I never heard of this show.
posted by grubi at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2010


Another big Magic Garden fan here. I watched this show as a little kid and really enjoyed it - the singing, the Chuckle Patch, and especially the Story Box. Though I am a straight female, I think my first crush was probably on Carole, and it may be why I wanted to play guitar so much. I never did get the pigtail-braids to happen, though. I still think she looks pretty styley.

One thing I always enjoyed was when the tree would lower a surprise in a big, bright shopping bag. Did anything ever seem so full of promise as the rustle and weight of that mysterious shopping bag?

Thanks for the post, MSTPT.
posted by Miko at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2010


See ya!
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2010


(Drat, HTML fail on my previous attempt?)

Oh, I loved Paula and Carole *so* much. One of my fondest memories was going to see them live -- LIVE!!!! -- when I was about five. They *autographed* my record (still one of my most prized possessions, although I definitely took the coloring book-style cover to heart)! <3>Romper Room, from WWOR [channel 9]. Miss Molly went to the church I grew up in. She's very nice.)
posted by lysimache at 12:40 PM on January 13, 2010


I watched Uncle Floyd. Made much more sense to me.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:47 PM on January 13, 2010


I had no idea that The Magic Garden was shot at WPIX. Interesting.

Yes. Sadly, it wasn't really a "Magic Garden" at all, but just more TV trickery.
posted by Slap Factory at 1:34 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing to add except that I loved this show as a kid.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:36 PM on January 13, 2010


Yes. Sadly, it wasn't really a "Magic Garden" at all, but just more TV trickery.

Lalalalalalala I can't hear you!

Yeah, I loved this show, too. I have a clear memory of being five and running into the kitchen so excited to tell my mother that I'd learned how to whistle; joining along during the closing song was how I finally mastered it.
posted by keever at 3:19 PM on January 13, 2010


Seriously, the DVDs are a joy. I feed this stuff to our daughters (3) and (5).
posted by mikelieman at 3:37 PM on January 13, 2010


TMG was the NY Metro area's homegrown Mr. Roger's Neighborhood back in the 70's, mainly for the fact that Carole & Paula, like Fred Rogers, took the emotional lives of the children in the audience seriously and did not condescend to them. I'm glad to see that they are still doing their thing and that the children whose lives they touched are now bringing their own children to meet Carole & Paula.

Great post, Marisa. Thank you so much.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was amazing, a total trip down memory lane.

If anyone can do an FPP like this for Steampipe Alley starring Mario Cantone, my childhood memories will be complete.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, Sherlock Fox? Awesome!
posted by KingEdRa at 6:38 PM on January 13, 2010


Wasn't Sherlock a big pink squirrel? With a bird friend named Flap, or Flapper?

Carole and Paula, I loved you so. I loved the idea that someone could the guitar while swinging on a playground swing. I loved the braids and ponytails. I remember that it ran Mondays through Thursdays, and on Friday there was something called "Joya's Fun School." If I'd had the vocabulary and jadedness then, I would have dragged my mom over to the TV and said "What the fuck is this shit?"

Magic Garden was so inviting in everything they did--"Here in the garden, what we say and do, we'd like you to join us, and do it too!

Now, if someone can find New Zoo Revue and The Patchwork Family....
posted by tzikeh at 5:40 AM on January 14, 2010


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