If you were a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, chances are Picture Pages with Bill Cosby was among the most magical minutes of your day.
There you were, trying to brush off the eye sand of a long, warm kid slumber while choking down some microwave sausage and Tang, watching the antics of Mr. Green Jeans and Mr. Moose on Captain Kangaroo.
Then, right in the middle of it all, a friendly and familiar face lit up the screen and promised to lead you on an interactive adventure with another friend, Mortimer Ichabod Marker.
It was idyllic.
But even then, you knew something was a little off.
And now, with the clarity of adulthood, and before the cataracts set in, we can see for sure that Picture Pages with Bill Cosby was all a big sham.
Here are seven reasons why.
You Couldn’t Play Along
The biggest beef I have with Picture Pages now is the biggest beef I had with Picture Pages when I was eight years old.
It’s probably the biggest beef everyone has always had with Picture Pages — namely, you couldn’t play along.
Oh, sure … Cosby would invite you to turn to Picture Page J-5 or D-3 or T-2, but you couldn’t do it.
At least I couldn’t.
Because, in order to play along, you had to convince your parents to send off their hard-earned money to Captain Kangaroo or whoever for what I reckon must have amounted to a glorified coloring book.
I say “reckon” because I never actually saw one.
And so, I sat there eating my soggy cornflakes, watching Mr. Pudding Pop play with a marker, just like millions of other kids.
Of course, even if you did manage to score some Picture Pages of your own …
Your Pages Were Paper
I can just imagine the disappointment on the face of some kid who waited for the customary 6-12 weeks for his Picture Pages to arrive and then sat down that first morning to work through a dot-to-dot with Bill and Mortimer Ichabod Marker.
There Cosby was, gliding Mortimer along a smooth glass pathway, huge and mounted to the wall.
And there the kid was, spread out on the shag carpet, trying to get his paper coloring book to lie flat so he could trace his broken Number 2 pencil between the dots.
He’d poke holes in the page trying to keep up with Cosby, and before he could even tell he was drawing an inchworm, the promo page was back on the screen telling him it was time to order more Picture Pages.
And what happened once you’d worked Picture Page B-4?
Well, you were screwed the next time Cosby decided to work B-4 … which you had worked before.
It was no big deal for Cosby, see, because he was slapping marker juice down on top of glass. Sort of like a dry erase board for the Dark Ages.
But he never needed that technology, not really, because he had the most powerful time machine ever invented — reruns.
So, all Cosby had to do was take a day off, and the virtual him would show up there with a clean B-4 copy, ready to roll.
Well, most likely you had nothing but your eyeballs.
Or, if you were lucky, you had B-4 in a decidedly after state.
Mortimer Ichabod Marker Was a Pen
How many kids watched Picture Pages just for the pen?
Maybe not that many, because there were also the opening and closing cartoons, Cosby himself, and the fact that Picture Pages was wrapped in the middle of a whole lot of other Captain Kangaroo goodness.
But Mortimer Ichabod Marker was the most magical part of the segment, without a doubt.
I mean, here you had an adorable pen who could communicate with Bill Cosby, guiding and chiding and kibitzing with him all along the way.
And then there was the intoxicating Atari chirp-glide sound Mortimer made when Cosby would slide him along a Picture Page.
It was like an ASMR power-up you could shoot down the old hatch before heading to school. And Mortimer was a tiny superhero mounted there to Cosby’s pen.
Only … Mortimer was nothing.
He didn’t move at all, and his face was frozen in that silly “hey kids!” grin of his. Hands stayed glued to his bulbous hips. And, it didn’t take long to realize the sounds he made were disembodied, not connected in any real way to the movements he didn’t make.
And another thing …
You could buy your very own Mortimer Ichabod Marker, just like you could buy your very own Picture Pages.
And what did you get for you parents’ many pennies?
An inanimate bee-like thing with a plain old ballpoint pen shoved up its butt.
The Theme Song Rotted Your Stomach
When did Picture Pages grace our television sets?
Why, during the Captain Kangaroo show, of course! And when did that run?
Why, on weekday mornings, right before school started. For me, it was the last thing I saw before I ran out to catch the school bus.
On some mornings, it was the last thing I saw before my mom dragged me out to catch the school bus.
So that snappy little entrance song soon enough invoked a sickening Pavlovian response that included a roiling stomach, sweaty hands, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and often a fake cough or two.
Even today, I get nervous and look for a place to run when I hear that tune, no matter where I may be.
I just know that freaking yellow bucket of bolts can’t be far behind.
There’s not much to say here.
Cosby was a role model, America’s dad, the guy everyone wanted to be around … and to be, someday.
Seems it was all a lie, and another hero falls by the wayside.
At least he reinforced a lesson we all should have learned long ago … real heroes are few and far between, and we should all pick ours wisely.
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End Date: Thursday 02/25/2021 22:43:32 EST
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