Recalling the shambling, witless piety of Davey and Goliath


This blog isn’t particularly big on recounting childhood memories. There’s no deep, dark reason behind that: My parents are good people and my early years were a particularly happy time spent in Huck Finn-like fashion, splashing among ponds, creeks and rivers when not playing sports or being involved in low-grade mischief.

However, most of my adventures were just that – my adventures – and probably not of particular interest to those who don’t know me.

In addition, I’m not big on contrasting my generation with that of my children’s, despite the many differences. Time alters perception and with the exception of the fact that social media and video games have drastically reduced spontaneous outdoor sports activity among youth today along with personal interaction, I don’t see a whole lot of changes.

One difference I do tell my kids about is that in weekend television viewing habits. I point out that not only was there no Cartoon Network 40 years ago and no limitless stream of animated entertainment on the Internet, but cartoons only appeared on Saturdays, when they were shown for a few hours in the morning. That, as I recall, was it for the entire week.

Oh, except for a low-grade “cartoon” that appeared on Sundays called “Davey and Goliath.” The claymation program, produced by the Lutheran Church of America, was anything but entertaining to a 10-year-old boy whose key interests were baseball, fishing and engaging in rock wars with neighborhood friends.

But, in the days when television consisted of the three major networks and, perhaps, PBS, the choice on a cold winter morning was Davey and Goliath, loud-mouthed evangelists or whatever obscure public affairs topic the local PBS affiliate had relegated to Sunday.

For those unfamiliar with the program, Davey was a young boy and Goliath his dog. The latter represented Davey’s conscious, and would speak to Davey, although if I recall correctly, only Davey could hear him. (I believe serial killer David Berkowitz also had a propensity for listening to dogs only he could hear, with somewhat more dire consequences.)

Davey would wrestle with such theological quandaries as whether to own up to hitting a baseball through his neighbor’s window or being disrespectful of his parents’ wishes.

For the blessedly uninitiated, you can see an episode here.

Goliath, in a sonorous, yet whiney voice, would pipe up each time Davey was about to make a bad choice (i.e., thinking bad of someone for being different, kneecapping a younger boy for failing to pay a gambling debt), with “I don’t know, Davey” and “I don’t think God would like that, Davey.”

Davey would ultimately see the error of his ways and take the path suggested by Goliath.

Part of me, I suppose, hoped against hope that the claymation program would, just once, be entertaining. Time and again I was bitterly disappointed.

With its focus on issues such as respect for authority, sharing and the evils of racism – not exactly what a preteen boy hopped up on sugared cereal considered Grade A entertainment fare – I came away dissatisfied and, at times, even vexed.

Even then, without the hindsight of today’s spectacular animation techniques, I realized that Davey and Goliath was an artistic monstrosity.

Worse than that, though, was its obdurate moralizing.

Looking back, I don’t fully understand what the Lutheran Church was attempting to accomplish. By the 1960s, there were plenty of entertaining cartoons already on television; Davey and Goliath was not only artistically inept, its storylines were duller than an elementary school spork.

Safe to say the number of converts Davey and Goliath brought into the Lutheran Church was in the low single digits.

In addition, even kids know when they’re being preached at, and most don’t like it, especially when it’s coming from shoddily crafted, priggish animated figures.

Yes, looking back I realize I should have turned off the television and read a book, but some things have to be learned the hard way. In retrospect, watching the old television test patterns that would run after programming went off the air would have been more illuminating.

16 thoughts on “Recalling the shambling, witless piety of Davey and Goliath

  1. Claymation can be off-putting when you’re used to traditional animation. Even more so if it’s preachy. If it must be as claymation boy and his dog, I’ll take Wallace and Gromit.

    • And I can’t say I blame you, Cole. I tried to show my kids an episode a few weeks back and I think I would rather have eaten ground glass than sit through all 15 minutes of the agony.

      A Happy Christmas and New Year’s to you, as well, Cole!

  2. How did your kids react to their fifteen minutes of priggery?
    It’s bad enough having a real person putting you on the straight and narrow…but an animated cartoon dog?
    At least the BBC spared us that….and we did have Joyce Grenfell and her nursery school, famed for the phrase ‘We never bite our friends’…

    • Oh, my kids thought it was so bad it was hilarious. Especially when I related my tortuous travails of sitting through such tripe on cold winter Sunday mornings (embellished perhaps just a bit).

      I think I would have benefited from a show that drummed into my head the importance of not biting friends, or enemies, for that matter.

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