Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: Faerie Tale Theatre

"Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall.  Welcome to Faerie Tale Theatre..."

As a small child, I thought I had it pretty good, TV-wise.  We not only had basic cable, we had HBO!  We had an RCA SelectaVision  VideoDisc player (alas, my father tells me it stopped working a couple years ago) and an early VCR.  (My parents chose VHS - we won!!!)

Then one evening, a Cablevision guy came to the house.  And before I knew it, HBO was gone, to be replaced in my house with Showtime.  My parents based this decision on one program:

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.

Shelley Duvall was already well-known to me.  My family loved  Robert Altman's much-maligned  live action film version of Popeye, starring Robin Williams.  We still love this movie.  And seriously, who can resist Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, singing songs penned by Harry Nilsson?

Well, I actually know a lot of people who resist this movie.  To them, I can only say THRRRRRPPPT.

Faerie Tale Theatre was a live-action anthology series hosted and executive produced by Ms. Duvall, starring and often directed by many famous people.  It could be compared to Shirley Temple's Storybook, which I mentioned in this post here.  The series was already in full swing by the time we added Showtime, but the episodes were rerun enough for my parents to videotape quite a few of them for us.  By the time the series ended in 1987, my parents were divorced and the cable had been completely cut, so we could only see later episodes at our neighbors' house (which we did, often), but the series remained a high point in my sister's and my 1980s-soaked childhoods.  

And sadly, our 1980s VHS tapes were either taped over, lost, or ruined, and VCRs were replaced by DVD players, and Faerie Tale Theatre might have become a distant memory.

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Complete Collection Gift Set
Hooray for DVDs.

And hooray for Hulu!  Because the entire series is available on Hulu (with its series syndication intro) to watch on the computer, or with Hulu Plus to watch elsewhere.  (We have a Roku.)

The episodes are usually close to an hour long, but to get a proper taste, I have linked to a few of my favorites:

  • "The Snow Queen," starring Lee Remick, Melissa Gilbert, Lance Kerwin, and Lauren Hutton.  
  • "Hansel & Gretel," starring Ricky Schroder, Bridgette Andersen, Paul Dooley, and Joan Collins.
  • "Thumbelina," starring Carrie Fisher, William Katt, Burgess Meredith, and Conchata Ferrell.
  • "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers," starring Peter MacNicol, Dana Hill, Christopher Lee, Frank Zappa, and David Warner.
  • "Beauty and the Beast," starring Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski.  This one's design and story borrow heavily from Jean Cocteau's spectacular French feature film version from 1946.  If and when you decide to introduce your kids to foreign films with subtitles, that's a great one to start with.  Showing them the Faerie Tale Theatre version is a nice way to ease into the French version, too.
And here is the Faerie Tale Theatre episode that started it all:  "The Frog Prince," directed by Eric Idle, and starring Robin Williams and Teri Garr, from 1982.  My family still likes to quote the "It's a box!" bit every time we open presents.

One more thing.  This is off-subject, but I wanted to share one more happy nostalgic thing.  My family dropped HBO prior just as Fraggle Rock was premiering.  Thus, my Fraggle-viewing was limited to the babysitter's and friends' houses.  As a Muppet fanatic, I have tried to catch up over the years.  Today, The Nerdist premiered this bit of awesomeness (click to read more about it) by the reunited Ben Folds Five.


  1. DUUUUUUUDE!! we are living parallel lives, totally. Just this wkend, Andrew started getting things lined up to DROP CABLE (gasp!) -- and we got the Amazon Prime, the Netflix and Hulu all ready to go -- all that's left is the phone call to the cable co -- ANYHOO, we discovered that Fraggle Rock and Faerie Tale Theatre was on Hulu!!! I LOVED Faerie Tale Theatre, but didn't see much Fraggle Rock. I'm thinking Julia will adore both.

    So question: are your girls watching the FT Theatre?? J is 6 and a half. It didn't come on for me until I was tween age, if I recall correctly, it wasn't around when I was small. Do your girls love it? Not too scary? I don't remember much, just that I loved it!

    1. I was 6 or 7 when I started watching it, and my sister is 2 1/2 years younger, and she watched it, too. The girls love it. Certain episodes are (much) better than others. I always thought that Sleeping Beauty was a bore (although my family still goes around quoting Carol Kane's "And the-e-en... and then, and then, and then, and then, and the-e-en..."). The girls love Thumbelina the most. And to watch plain silliness, the Goldilocks and Three Little Pigs episodes are stupidly fun.

      Fraggles are more prevalent on Netflix and Amazon Prime. :o)

  2. I've never heard of FT Theatre before, will have to try it out! And wow - Ben Folds Five/Fraggles - SO COOL! We loved that show when we were kids. Did you watch Ben on The Sing Off?

    1. I didn't. Alas, my normal TV watching has dwindled, as I am so seldom home in the evenings. I love Ben Folds, though. :O)

      FTT is very '80s. If they made it today, it would have been done much better and much more expensively. ;o)


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