In our quest to bring you the best TV content, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist. This week, we're bringing back genuine terror: via the characters who assaulted our childhood innocence way back when. Rational or not — here's looking at you, Michael Arbeiter — behold a round-up of the most terrifying offenders.
Shaunna Murphy: Hi, kids — it's me, Face! — an absolutely terrifying, bodiless talking head on acid. I change colors every few seconds, and my only purpose on this earth is to inject terror into the hearts of millions by introducing their favorite TV shows. The truth is that I'm actually an ethereal terrorist from the future sent from the past to collect brainwaves from the innocent minds of children, until their hearty imaginations build a time machine that will send my ruined people back in time to establish a reign of terror on planet Earth! Hee Hee! I mean, enjoy Blue's Clues!
Kelsea Stahler: This little bear was supposed to make you want to wash your blankets and roll around in them, soaking up the freshness. Instead, this terrifying little spokesbear turned a comforting activity into a terrifying one.
Matt Patches: I wasn't allowed to watch MTV growing up — a move to protect me from the heinous, perverted, mind-destroying material flooding the channel at the time, of course — but the pop culture impact of Beavis and Butthead was too strong. I found it... and it scared the crap out of me. I blame it on the lack of laugh track and incessant low-pitch giggling on the part of the idiotic duo. Their voices sounded like evil gremlins. And what the heck was AC/DC?!
Michael Arbeiter: There was nothing inherently scary to me about Grover when I first encountered him on Sesame Street. But the popular puppet earned certain… dark connotations when he began to slip into my nighttime delusions. I was about three or four, struggling to get to sleep, when I began hearing voices coming from my wall. Not coming from behind my wall, but from the wall itself — it spoke to me, and in the highly recognizable voice of Grover. But the voice didn’t bring along with it his chipper, kindly demeanor. I was terrified, and would forever be so whenever I heard Grover speak.
Abbey Stone: The 1985 TV movie Alice Through the Looking Glass was already a few years old by the time I stumbled upon it as a kid, but it was still enough to make me afraid to fall asleep for years. As terrifying as the monstrous Jabberwocky was, he was only the tip of the iceberg. I'm not sure if the psychedelic imagery scared me more, or the abandonment and helplessness tropes the movie played up.
Christian Blauvelt: (The trolls from David the Gnome) It’s one thing for cannibalistic, shag-haired, pupil-less trolls to menace cute little forest gnomes. It’s another thing when they’re menacing a cute little forest gnome voiced by Tom Bosley. Here's a clip where the trolls come in at the 15:30 mark. They actually want to eat a fox! A fox!
Samantha Xu: I'm pretty sure that NASA has disproven the theory of swinging over the bar on a swing set, but after watching this Nickelodeon claymation short as a child, my paranoia of turning into a walking peepshow severely hampered my swinging mojo. I mean, who wants to be inside out? Wouldn't you be really cold all time?
Anna Brand: Pinky was always goofy with his buck teeth and crossed eyes so he seemed harmless. Brain, on the the other hand, was always grumpy and evil-looking, and when he played with his squiggly tail I had to close my eyes. Also, his ears were so enormous I always thought he was hiding creatures in them.
Alicia Lutes: "What is it about Howie Mandel that's so terrifying?" people often ask me. To which I respond: Are you kidding? Is that even a question? Everything about Howie Mandel is terrifying. Howie Mandel is what I imagine all clowns look like on their days off — right down to that weird voice he did in Bobby's World and his general germaphobia. Though I believe my fear may have a bit of a bias, considering I once had a vivid dream as a child where Howie Mandel and my younger brother chased me around the entire state of Connecticut before finding me in my cousin's basement and murdering me. My childhood imagination was very strange.
Aly Semigran: Soundgarten's video for "Black Hole Sun" creeped me out so much that not only would I have to change that channel whenever that terrifying, big-eyed nightmare started on MTV, but still cannot listen to that song without getting a chill down my spine.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Snuggle]