Sparrow Spelunker

To: PBS Kids

From: Rampage Productions

Subject: Sparrow Spelunker

Let’s not beat around the bush.

You have a thing for avians.

big bird

I have one lodged in the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

house sparrow

You could do with some fresh IP.

IP intellectual property

I need $100 to extract the fresh IP from the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

100 dollar bill

You seek to excite and education your young audience.

the more you know star

I suspect the three or four nanoseconds of life that sparrow had when it encountered the exhaust blower, which to him must have seemed like a ten thousand RPM birdie buzzsaw, were both exciting and educational.

furnace blower

So without further ado, I give you your children’s television flagship property: Sparrow Spelunker.

Sparrow Spelunker

Sparrow Spelunker

It’s a show as unafraid as its protagonist(s) to grapple with the tough issues.  Issues like:

  • Why you really shouldn’t go in there

  • What will happen to you if you go in there

  • How much it will cost some innocent homeowner to scrape you out again after you do go in there

This said, I admit the title of the series is somewhat misleading in using the singular form of sparrow – it will probably require a new protagonist pretty much every episode.  While this might seem like a lot of work from a characterization standpoint, I feel the script leaves both adequate room for characterization as well as presents the opportunity to vary the racial, familial, and political history of the sparrow for a true multicultural experience.  In fact, based on the flying communist who entered my furnace in an ill-fated attempt to seize the means of heat production, I’ve put together a script outline for your consideration.

  1. Opening theme

  2. Recap of previous week

    1. “O’ Righ’ – On last week’s episode o’ Sparrow Spelunker, ol’ SS explored the exhaust on a 100,000 BTU Luxair.  Didn’t end so well for him, poor chap.  But that was then, so hang onto yer hats, kiddies, ’cause this week we’re going in the intake o’ that same 100,000 BTU Luxaire!”

  3. Spelunking

  4. Audience of British-sounding-children, in Spongebob Squarepants fashion, shouts the show’s catchphase: “Oh no, Sparrow Spelunker!  You mustn’t spelunk in there!”

  5. Furnace fires up

  6. Closing theme

I also have drafts for other possible episodes of Sparrow Spelunker.  These include such exotic, spelunk-worthy locations as a wood chipper, a fractionating tower, a muscle car air intake, and – my personal favorite – the depths of some pachyderm’s wazoo.  The last, of course, is where I sincerely wish the sparrow that inspired all of this would have flown.  You know, instead of my furnace exhaust pipe.  I could have done without meeting the furnace repair guy, who in his defense was a very nice man and more than willing to convert a bird oubliette back into an exhaust pipe in return for a picture of Benjamin Franklin.

This, of course, is where you come in, PBS.  Just send that check to Rampage Productions.

And maybe a Sparrow Spelunker t-shirt.

Hellmo

My daughter has reached the inevitable developmental stage wherein she anoints Big Bird the principal deity of her personal pantheon and, thusly, wants to do little else save consume manna (which looks and smells suspiciously like Cheerios) at the foot of the flat screen that serves as his flickering alter.  Simultaneously, her parental authorities, mere mortals that they be, have reached a point where they no longer care what precisely she does so long as it doesn’t end in turning her sippy cup into the cutest Molotov cocktail you ever did see.  This is a brief story, but it carries with it more than one moral.

First, Dr. Spock can bite me.

Second, I can, in fact, tell you how to get to Sesame Street.  It involves a phone call to my dealer for a little bit of Snuffleupagus, if you know what I mean.

Dude! Dude! You never told me you had a big brown elephant! … Whatcha think he tastes like?

I won’t pretend to be the first parent to realize that Sesame Street is the sort of place that would benefit from either an exorcism or intervention by Beetlejuice.  I mean, let’s meet a few select members of the cast, shall we?

There’s the eight-foot bird with inversely proportional cognitive ability and self-esteem.

Today Big Bird will feel really bad about his ignorance. As he should.

There’s the landed gentry with numeric monomania.

That’s one, two, three letters in OCD! Ha ha ha…

And then there’s this… thing.

Slightly more malevolent than Chucky.

It speaks in the third person.  It inspired (via the infamous “tickle me” doll) numerous attempted murders.  And these days, it seems to have somehow got itself trapped in a hell of its own making.  That, of course, is Elmo’s World, a previously unmentioned circle of the underworld within walking distance of Cocytus.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say they still haven’t got his dosage quite right.

I’m forced to conclude, at some point in the indeterminate past, it was determined actual script writers were expensive, which I suppose is understandable when you factor in the salary, benefits, and substantial amounts of alcohol needed to come up with stuff like this.

Forget coming out of the closet – they’ve left the bedroom and are sailing at 30,000 feet.

Regardless, “Elmo’s World” is a segment unburdened with plot or purpose.  A realm where !@#% all can happen and directing serious inquiries at babies, which Elmo (their intellectual inferior) does every show, is a perfectly acceptable research method.

And then there’s Mr. Noodle.  I’ve come to loathe Mr. Noodle.

I’m INSANE.

Mr. Noodle and Elmo’s goldfish make up most of the remaining population of Elmo’s Fever Dream.  I have no idea how they got there.  My current theory, at least in regards to the first, is that Mr. Noodle was standing too close to the fuzzy red psychopath when the earth split open and the souls of the damned seized Elmo and yanked him back where he belongs.  The experience, understandably, shattered Mr. Noodle’s sanity, and now he cannot put on pants or locate his ears in under three tries and without excessive prompting.  He also appears to be suffering from some strange variant of Stockholm syndrome, as he routinely exhibits excessive exuberance in doing Elmo’s bidding.  It’s meant to be cute, but I find myself frightened.  In Mr. Noodle, Elmo has the potential of a perfect assassin.  Of course, this assumes Mr. Noodle could figure out which end of the knife he was supposed to hold and remember he should shove it into the other guy and not himself.

To end on a timely note, I suppose I should weigh in on whether or not my daughter’s religious denomination merits continued public funding.  This is difficult to do since ultimately I’m ambivalent, but I think we should at least reevaluate our funding of one Elmo and his personal plane of existence.  It’s only a matter of time before he starts asking babies about our nuclear capabilities and tasks Mr. Noodle with building a warhead.  Unlike, say, putting on one’s trousers, that’s not the sort of thing you want to do by trial and error.

Eighties Cartoon Flashback: Pimp My Ride

The 80s were a golden age for cartoon antagonists.  As proof, I submit that from thence came such figures as…

Dr. Claw: The most frightening right arm in children’s television.

Or…

Cobra Commander: From a faction of baddies including, but not limited to, demolitions experts, snipers, and a freakin’ ninja comes the guy known only for his nasally voice, perpetual whining, and wearing a welding helmet to work.

And who can forget…

Shredder: The last time I crossed my arms, I needed twenty-six stitches.

And the reason they were great was this – they were allowed to do more than mildly inconvenience the protagonist.  This is unlike modern times where, if a thirty-minute animated special doesn’t end with the good guys and slightly less good guys holding hands/paws/hooves and performing a musical number, it’s cited in court cases involving serial murder.

You’re gonna be my friend, or this unicorn horn is goin’ right up your wazoo.

However, I have to acknowledge there is a singular problem with my everything-was-better-in-the-80s theory.  There is a flaw in my logic of sufficient dimensions that a guitar-shaped motorcycle could be driven right through it.

Yes, those are exactly what you think they are.

I give you the Misfits, antagonists for the Jem television program, which ran from 1985 to 1988.  Her – Jem’s – tagline is that “she’s truly outrageous.”  As antagonists, the Misfits (a rival pop band) are not entitled to a tagline, but they should have one to the effect of “we’re truly incompetent.”   But even with that said, my primary problem with the Misfits is not their stupidity – let us not forget that even the distinguished Shredder suffered from more than his share of intellectual shortcomings.  No, my problem with the Misfits is the guitar-cycles, which appeared in exactly one episode, but for which I cannot forgive them.

Seriously – what the hell?

To make my point, I’ve taken the liberty of making a comprehensive list of everything wrong with this picture.

1. Zero points of articulation mean the Misfit guitar-cycle doesn’t so much corner as rely on a combination of prayer and the curvature of the earth.

2. Seat?  We don’t need no stinkin’ seat.  And apparently we don’t need any discernable form of suspension either.  I’m assuming riding this thing is a little like being run out of town on a rail.

A slightly more dignified form of transportation.

3. Presumably, she’s riding it inside because, to hearken back to point one, she was unable to assert any directional preference and can now only hope she exits via window or the thin sheetrocked space between studs.

4. I always ride my steering-less, suspension-less motorcycle through tight spaces at high speeds without a helmet, which goes a long way in explaining why I’m riding it to begin with.

This man has lower insurance premiums than the Misfits.

5a. What kind of guitar is this supposed to be?  The Fender Crapocaster?  A Gibson Les Poop?  No – wait a minute.  It looks like it’s made of plastic and costs way too much.  It must be a Rickenbacker.

Finally an instrument that says, “I have a lot of money and know how to play ‘Smoke on the Water.’”

5b. Oh… wait… it has four strings.  It’s a BASS guitar.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any less cool.

Finally an instrument that says, “I have a lot of money and do not know how to play ‘Smoke on the Water.’”

6. …Where’s the motor on this thing, anyway?

No one’s going anywhere until I get a push.

7. No place to put her feet.  No kickstand.  And based on the scale of this drawing, I’m assuming the Guitar-Cycle is about the size of a draft horse.  I’m also guessing that the only way to get on is to run really fast alongside it and jump…while in your high heels.  Likewise, dismounts are best done near municipal hospitals since they involve a six or seven foot fall.

Another slightly more dignified form of transportation – admittedly with an…earthier… odor. As an aside, I’m assuming the above breed is what you get when you cross a horse with the NASA Crawler.

8. The bad news is that there are no brakes.  The good news is that, in the 80s, both sexes were expected to sport enough hair to serve as an impromptu parachute.

These men have jumped out of a (Jefferson) airplane with nothing but a can of hairspray and survived.

9. Headlight?  Tail light?  Turn signals?  Admittedly, the last would be superfluous given the complete absence of a steering column, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Ma’am, there isn’t a jurisdiction on this planet where this vehicle is street legal.

Now I admit that perhaps my thesis should have been less along the lines that 80s villains were better and more along the lines of “Shredder does everything better,” which would make an awesome bumper sticker or presidential slogan.  If nothing else, his ride puts Air Force One to shame.

We big pimpin’.

In related news, I now know who I’m voting for in 2012.