The Divine Miss Spoon
August 23, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

From the nearly-forgotten 80s educational show Vegetable Soup, Woody the Spoon tells you how to make gohan, Japanese-style rice. If Woody's voice sounds a little familiar, it's because he's voiced by Bette Midler.
posted by JHarris (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A good number of these segments were made for the show, but only two appear to survive on the internet. This is the other one, but the quality isn't so good.
posted by JHarris at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2013

What is Japanese-style rice? If it's just steamed white rice, that's not specifically Japanese, except for maybe the amount of water used.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2013

I agree, it's just how it's presented in the clip. Japanese was oh so exotic back then. Vegetable Soup's gimmick was multiculturalism, so these segments featured food from different countries and cultures.
posted by JHarris at 11:39 AM on August 23, 2013

I have many great memories of that show from my childhood (especially airdrumming the drum bits in the intro), but Outerscope is the stuff of nightmares.
posted by activitystory at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I loved that show so much.

/latchkey kid
posted by latkes at 11:49 AM on August 23, 2013

Produced by Jim Simon, who also created Sesame Street's "A Loaf of Bread, a Container of Milk, and a Stick of Butter."
posted by gubo at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

There's a short list of these kinds of segments I want to find somewhere online, there was lots of educational stuff at the time that has practically no presence anywhere anymore. I was often home sick from school and didn't get out much, so I watched large amounts of public television. A couple of years ago I posted about Read All About It. Here's some more shows I want to mention before I completely forget about them, because the memory is fading and I've seen almost nothing about these programs online.

There was this odd show called Wordsmith, in which a guy told us about "word cells," the roots of words, in a set that looked a bit like Jeopardy. I credit that show with awakening my interest in the construction of words. I have found a little about this show online actually, it has a Wikipedia page, and there's an interview with the host on a site somewhere.

There was a show that had this weird animation of a big machine with different body parts hooked together. The sound the eye made when it blinked was unsettling. I remember little else about it, I don't even remember the show's name. I think it was about biology, and the machine was a kind of visual metaphor for the human body, but it was really bizarre.

Sesame Street has its share of forgotten segments. There was Thelma Thumb, which was animated in the same style as Twice Upon A Time (full movie link!) and by the same people, which was about a girl with a talking crow friend, and who turns into a fairy to solve neighborhood problems. It was very superhero-y in construction, with Thelma being like a secret identity, but with low-scale powers: being tiny, flying, and maybe talking to animals were basically it. But it never explained why or how the transformation happened. Here's one episode, unfortunately dubbed into Spanish.

Even Jim Thurman's awesome Teeny Little Super Guy, which has been referenced in contemporary Sesame Street and has been seen here before, is hard to find clips from.

There was this show that I used to like a great deal but now remember hardly anything about, about... I think it was a candy shop? And they went over math principles there when the shop was closed? Maybe it wasn't a candy shop. Anyway, I remember very little about it anymore.

There was a show that was made for older folks, about a husband-and-wife team of housepainters who were studying for their GED, and since they were painting the houses anyway they marked up the walls with black marker, as they went over with each other concepts in geometry and algebra. It was terrific, really I can't understate how much I loved it, and it was my first exposure, at the age of 12 or so, to this kind of math.

There was a series of cartoons in which animal characters, different ones in each episode, used elementary algebra and geometry to get out of the cartoon predicaments they found themselves in. About the only thing I really remember from this is the phrase wolf-proof rope, which was sold to the Three Little Pigs to protect them from the wolf. The idea was, the rope was tied around trees or stakes to form a perimeter, and it magically protected pigs inside the area of the rope from the Wolf. So the idea is, how much area can you get for a certain length of the sides of the rectangle?

I think this is late 80s, there was an early CG show about Transformer-like robots, with I seem to remember actually pretty good writing, who went over algebra. I only saw this one once or twice.

Anyway, when people express the opinion that the Internet preserves everything, I know not to believe them. It merely presents the illusion that everything is saved, somewhere, and can be found online, and that illusion makes it easier for things to be truly lost.
posted by JHarris at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Was this a show that was about diversity - I totally remember the theme song... I think my mom really had a problem with it, and I think it was the "diversity" aspect. I think there were some things that my mom was racist and bigoted about that she didn't realize but that I picked up on undertones even though overtly she was really a loving and compassionate person. Prolly just shit she heard from like Pat Robertson or whatever preacher pablum she had on the radio/tv those days.
posted by symbioid at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2013


It aired at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings, and I'm sure every aspect of this fact horrified my parents.
posted by Madamina at 12:25 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

It was, Vegetable Soup has a psychedelic style that I didn't actually like much at the time, the opening titles were kind of frightening. And the Outerscope segment that followed it is remembered in various corners of the internet as nightmare fuel.
posted by JHarris at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2013

Related, here is a somewhat maddening but impressive discussion about lost and forgotten '70s and '80s kids' shows.
posted by mykescipark at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

A bit upmarket from her previous employment at the Continental Gay Baths. Yes, Bette Midler was a drag version of herself before she was herself.
posted by Nelson at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Holy crap! Thank you for reminding me of this series. Loved the opening theme especially.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2013

Well, there's another forgotten piece of my childhood resurrected!
posted by edheil at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2013

What is Japanese-style rice? If it's just steamed white rice, that's not specifically Japanese

If you ever find yourself in Japan, never say this. If asked, which in my experience is something that will happen at some point, just say yes, Japanese rice is delicious.
posted by Hoopo at 2:08 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

The show terrified and amazed me. I was a city kid, and it was marketed at me, and actually sort of felt right (the diversity, the use of soul and funk music, the twitchy animation), but there was a lot of that show that just freaked me out. I think it's why I have always been frightened of psychedelics.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

My own memories of the show, I strain to remember, were hindered with a difficulty in telling what Woody was saying. Woody uses some weird idioms, like calling pots of liquid potions, and that coupled with a style of speech I hadn't heard much in Brunswick, Georgia, made it difficult to grasp exactly what was being said. But now that I do understand better, yes, I find this song wonderful. I wonder if I might have an undiagnosed learning disability or something.
posted by JHarris at 4:50 PM on August 23, 2013

Ah, something else for you, the opening and a short bit of Villa Alegre, a weird multi-culturalism themed counterpart for Sesame Street. That opening theme song is iconic.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 PM on August 23, 2013

I sing the theme song to "Vegetable Soup" to my 3-year-old daughter as a lullaby.
posted by escabeche at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by JHarris at 8:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a short list of these kinds of segments I want to find somewhere online, there was lots of educational stuff at the time that has practically no presence anywhere anymore.

I'm partly joking, but I often wonder whether children's television was the easiest possible career path for ex-hippies who wanted to hold down a white collar job, but had difficulty doing so because of the acid flashbacks. It certainly makes this more understandable.
posted by jonp72 at 9:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I loooooved this show as a kid, although in hindsight the Outerscope puppets are pretty freaky. I remember it annoyed the heck out of me that I couldn't see them in sequence...I used to jockey for extra sick days so I could see things in order. Foreign concept for these here kids today!

Other shows I really remember from those times: Inside Out, which was kind of a morality parable buried in a documentary style filming of a bunch of kids, and a series of shows I don't remember the name of, with a guy who would review kids books and draw pictures while the story was overnarrated. I picked up GOBS of books at the library based on this show. Host's name was John Christopher, William Christopher?

aaaaaaand of course "Let's all Sing" with Tony Saletan!
posted by hearthpig at 10:55 AM on August 24, 2013

I vaguely remember that narrated drawing show too hearthpig.

Ah! Apparently there were at least two shows with that premise, both hosted and narrated by John Robbins. The Book Bird (that link is to a full episode, on Balto!) and Cover To Cover.
posted by JHarris at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2013

oh, thank you, JHarris, that's exactly the guy. I don't remember Book Bird (or the claymation opening) but cover to cover was definitely a show I watched a LOT as a kid, and picked up a LOT of books by watching. That was a long time ago; I wonder if he is still kicking? Interwebs says the show went on to the 90's.

I also find evidence of similar shows by him called "Readit" and "Storybound". I think I remember all of these but who knows?
posted by hearthpig at 8:09 PM on August 24, 2013

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