Thursday, February 26, 2004

While performing yet another random Google search, I found this - a page of video clips of those Saturday morning PSAs the networks ran in the late 70s through the 80s. Most memorable are the ones featuring Timer, a rotund orange cartoon creature who was ubiquitous during the terrible ABC cartoons of my youth. Let's journey back into the past for a moment and relive the glory days of ineffectual attempts to make kids take notice of their health sandwiched between ads for Sugar Encrusted Remnants of Corn Meal and Carmelized Fruit-Flavored Chewable Snack Products:

"Hanker for a Hunka Cheese" - Anyone who was a sentient, TV viewing child in the United States of America between 1978 and 1988 knows this thing word for word and has probably had the jingle stuck in their head during an inopportune time, like a history exam or a relative's funeral. But this PSA also proves that far from a charming 70s retro character, Timer was a spokesthing far ahead of his time. By urging kids to nourish themselves by shoveling cheese into their gaping maws, Timer presaged the Atkins diet by over two decades.

"You Are What You Eat" - Timer parlayed the earnings from his early PSA appearances into a string of cattle ranches in southeast Wyoming. From then on, Timer would use his perch to not-so-subtly emphasize the value of protein above all else. (Notice how vitamins and minerals get a mere ". . . and so on" mention near the end of the short.) You will eat meat, children! Eat the animal flesh! (Bonus fact: the sample of "how can you have your pudding if you won't eat your meat?" from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" was taken from an unreleased outtake of this PSA, which caught Timer in the midst of an obscene, protein-fueled rant against vegetarians.)

"Quick Snack" - This one was targeted for the millions of neglected latchkey kids who grew up in front of the television, showing them a way to maintain basic nourishment during Dad's three day benders or Mom's tours of the American Southwest with Skeetch, Dirthog and the rest of Satan's Avengers. (Unfortunately, this site doesn't include a clip of the "Time to Call Child Protective Services" PSA.) Timer shows a dirty, rickets-and-scurvy-suffering young lad a recipe for a snack involving ice cubes, cauliflower and cheese. I call bullshit. No one in the history of the world ever willingly ate a cauliflower/ice cube/celery/cheese combination - OK, maybe maximum security prisoners forced to eat the special management meal. Clearly, the mighty Timer empire was already fading when this PSA was released.

"Sunshine on a Stick" - Clearly written by an ex-hippie trying to inflict his pro-hallucinogen propaganda into the minds of impressionable young people. One can imagine him sketching the storyboards for this short in between sneaking a J in the executive washroom and muttering about "fuckin' Reagan" and "fuckin' Jefferson fuckin' Starship." In this one, Timer cheers up a depressed proto-emo kid by showing him how to make popsicles from frozen juice. The drug references are numerous: from "sunshine on a stick" (a particularly potent form of acid popular in the San Fernando Valley in the mid 70's) to Timer saying "whatever turns you on," to the poking of the toothpicks in the saran wrap (just like a needle in a junkie's flesh). The connection between the rise in recreational drug use in our nation's youth and the introduction of this PSA cannot be overstated.

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