Thursday, September 1, 2011

That’s Hobo Style

The Littlest Hobo. This cheesy Canadian show (of the “it’s so bad, it’s good” variety), which ran from 1979-1985, has always held a particularly and peculiarly special spot in my heart. There are a few reasons for this that I shall proceed to itemize:

1. It encapsulates my love of retro. The hair, the outfits, the cars, houses, decorations, technology (or lack there of)… it’s kitschy, and nostalgic and hilarious. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the episode where they lost Bobby and had to communicate to one another via payphones was fantastic. Sometimes at the end of episodes, you can be lucky enough to see the promotional clip that was tagged on after the credits, advertising old rental cars and hotels.
2. It was shot in Ontario, so every once in a while there’ll be an episode where I actually recognize a location. For instance, the one that took place in a hotel with the Golden Monkey statues (the one where every time the Chinese man came on screen, there was a gong sound. Ah, racial foibles) is a hotel that I’ve actually stayed at, and really hasn’t changed at all. Brown brick, orange floors never go out of style, right?
3. It harkens back to a time that was almost more innocent, or at least a time when TV pretended things were more innocent. Kids were kids, bad guys got their comeuppance, and the line between right and wrong was drawn thick and hilariously apparent.
4. The show had essentially no production values. WHICH MAKES IT AMAZING. Some of the best examples: The one where Hobo was walking through a forest, and he sees a raccoon up in a tree (a real raccoon, probably stock footage), then the raccoon jumps on him, but it’s so obviously a raccoon skin hat. Or the one where kids are playing on a raft in a stream and they see a crocodile (remember, this show takes place in Ontario…). Of course you never see the kids and the croc in the same shot. Cut to a shot of kids screaming, cut to shot of croc in a completely different location. Fantastic. Oh, and then they got really creative and had a shot of the crocodile swimming, which was clearly a crocodile head on a stick with some P.A. swimming underneath it. Or the one where Hobo was wrestling with a snake but it was most definitely one of those plush toy snakes you can win at a carnival. But then cut to stock footage of a real snake, then back to Hobo wrestling with the fake one. No attempt taken to even make it look authentic. The lack of verisimilitude is one of the most charming qualities of this show. My favourite has to be the one where the little boy in the wheel chair is free-wheeling out of control down a hill and Hobo goes to rescue him. It looks like some one has just literally thrown the dog onto this wheelchair kid. Limbs, wheels and paws akimbo. This was actually the ep that a young Mike Myers was in. Wearing very short shorts.
5. The adventure just in watching it. I have so many fond memories of watching this ridiculous show. When I was really young, I’d come home from school and watch it with some apple slices, appreciating it because it had a cool dog in it. When I was in high school and it was on, I remember watching it with theatre friends from Spotlight and we’d all get a kick out of how terrible it is. In University I carried on this appreciation for the terrible, and upon discovering that Hobo was aired at 6:00am, I encouraged my friends Shaundra and Brian to wake up at that ungodly hour, trek to the end of the hall in our residence where the student lounge was, cuddle up in our blankets (I in my Mr. T blanket), sing along with the theme song, laugh our asses off at the hijinx that Hobo got himself mixed up in, then return to bed. Fact: the more ridiculous the hour that Hobo is on, the better it is. You are so tired that everything in it is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. Then when Stuart and I moved to Toronto, I found out CTV airs it at 8:00am on Saturdays. So, with our crappy bunny ear antenna on the TV set (we don’t have cable), we watch the fuzzy screen, still in bed, half asleep, chuckling. EDIT: Since I’ve written this, CTV has switched to digital, so analogue viewers (such as myself with the good ole bunny ear antenna) can no longer access this channel. WHY?? Why must the fates be so cruel?!
6. The theme song, my god, the theme song.

The ultimate reason though is that a part of me has always aspired to be just like Hobo. Traveling around from town to town, going on adventures, making people happy, never settling down. As my favorite line in the theme song says, “Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style!” It’s odd, considering this is what I’ve always wanted, yet I find myself in the opposite situation. I’m quite settled – I have a steady job, have lived in the same apartment for three years, have had the same boyfriend for my whole twenties. These, I know, are great, wonderful, amazing things and I am well aware that I’m extremely lucky, and yet it scares me. I never imagined I’d be so settled at 25. I want the life of adventure and traveling! Life’s too short to be stuck in a daily routine already! I feel like life is zipping by, and I just want it to slow down a bit so I can get all I want to do, done. Perhaps that’s why I have such an affinity toward all that’s retro. Shows and things from time gone by are like pieces of the past frozen Ah, good ole quarter life crisis and 1st world problems, eh?

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