Sunshine, Sweetness and Morals: It's "The Magic Garden!"
The Magic Garden sadly isn't known by more people because it was produced and aired locally to the greater New York City area in the early 70s through the mid 80s. The filming, except for a special, took place in the early 70s. I absolutely adored this show as a kid! Two groovy hippie chicks, Carole and Paula, greeted viewers, literally, before every show after their opening "Hello" song. However, with a name like "Averyl" they never said "hello" to me.
The half hour was spent in the magic garden with Sherlock, a squirrel puppet who sounds like Ed Norton from the Honeymooners, the "Chuckle Patch," a group of giggling daisies that speak through handwritten jokes on paper petals.
The part that I loved and continue to love most is the sweetness and deliberateness behind it. Carole and Paula's conversations and skits were full of silliness, laughter, sunshine and rainbows, but they were also filled with something very substantive today: Morals, a word that sadly has gotten a bad rap in the 21st Century. What made me think about this recently is that there was a newly discovered lost episode, a Christmas special from 1981 which was streamed from WPIX.
In this epsiode was a charming skit involving Paula dressed up as an ant who was too busy looking for crumbs to store up for winter to play with Carole, who was dressed as a grasshopper that kept trying to distract the ant with promises of games and fun. The ant, to us kids, of course seemed like the more boring one (although Paula did a great job with cute commentary on the various and clever "crumbs" she found, like a tiny piece of Penicillin), while the grasshopper was the fun one, jumping for action and playing.
Winter came and the ant was comfy and warm with a home stocked with all she needed. The grasshopper, shivering, hungry and left out in the cold decided to knock on Ant's door for a visit. Ant invited Grasshopper in and said she had a present for her! Grasshopper was thrilled at the prospect of something to eat or with which to keep warm! But it was a broom. Bummer! BUT! Ant tells Grasshopper she is welcome to stay with her for the winter if she agrees to help sweep and keep the place clean. The deal is made and the skit ends happily.
What were they trying to teach us? The importance of planning ahead. Delaying gratification. Finding fun in work. Earning our keep. Sharing. Those are important lessons for kids, and even adults. There was nothing political about it. Nothing religious. Just earnest lessons from a couple of ladies who taught us with love, simple props, costumes and music. How many children's shows today involve the absence of high tech gimmickry and include a "moral to the story?" There were no product placements. It was a gender-neutral show in that it appealed to both boys and girls evidenced by those posting to their Facebook page.
I was so moved by all the memories that came back as I watched the lost episode that I found a copy of the original show LP and bought it!