Remember When- S.Y.S

Salute Your Shorts
September 20, 2011
Volume 6

Remember When- Salute Your Shorts.

We run, we jump, we swim and plaaaaaay! Hey Retro Junkies, Born In The 80s (BITS as some of my close friends call me) here with a brand new, "Remember When". Now those lyrics that I just wrote out are iconic. Anyone born before, I'd say, 1989, know exactly where that song is going. This was the show that made us ALL want to go to summer camp. So I have to ask you, Remember When Salute Your Shorts was our favorite show?

As you all know, I love everything Retro. I love talking to you guys about it, and from time to time, I try to engage other people in such conversations. There is something that I have seen over the years that I have always found interesting: While most Nickelodeon shows are well known by people of all ages, this one tends to be forgotten.

I work with a lot of college kids. When I am getting to know the new crop of kids, I like to talk a little retro to break the ice. What I began to notice about 2 years ago was that none of them knew what Salute Your Shorts was. I was, for a lack of better words, shocked to have seen this. How it is that they remembered shows that ran at the same time, but not this one, was always puzzling to me. For many of us, this was a show that came to mind almost immediately when you thought about the glory days of Nick.

Given, these kids were younger than we were, but how was it that they knew all of the other oldies, but not this one? Was it the short run of the show? Perhaps. Believe it or not, Salute Your Shorts only taped two seasons worth of shows for Nick. Didn't it feel like more? It did rerun until 1999 as well, so what gives? After thinking about it long and hard, I came up with what I believe may be a reason.

Now I might not be completely right, and I'm sure many will disagree, but I have the feeling that by 1999, the reruns of the show were extremely limited. In fact, I think it was a show that was a choice on Slime Time Live, or whatever afternoon block ran in the summer, but it was hardly chosen. By that point in time, the show was probably viewed as being outdated and less interesting than any of the other programs. Plus, you know kids. They'll watch the same thing over and over again as long as they like it. The show was clearly being passed over by whatever was hot at the time. Since it wasn't ever picked, a new audience didn't get the chance to be exposed to it. At least shows like Rugrats were still running new episodes and had a spin off. That is the only reason I can come up with. A bit off topic, but I wanted to throw it out there.

Anyways, back to the show itself. Two seasons of wonder and excitement. Characters that you wanted to be friends with. This show did a lot for many people. It was your first adventure. I remember spending a lot of time outside recreating some of the activities and fun that we had seen on screen. It was, for a lot of us, our first TV crush (ahh...Dina...). And how many pranks did we see play out on screen that you soon tried on your own friends and family. And finally, how many out there actually DID go to summer camp because of this show.

Groundbreaking and influential. This is my FAVORITE Nickelodeon show of all time, hands down. The show debuted on June 1st, 1991. I was 5 years old, and for me, this one kind of hit home. I have mentioned 100 times the place we had upstate. Since we had the place, we never went to summer camp, nor did we have to, because we were up there every weekend. We had friends there, and we were always out doing something. Swimming, fishing, bike riding, playing baseball, heading to the playground...sound a little familiar? To me, this show was playing my life out on screen. It was an immediate love affair that has lasted 20 years.

Most people don't know this, but the show was actually based on a book called Salute Your Shorts: Life at Summer Camp, by Steve Slavkin. The book was released in 1986. I have never had the chance to read it, but one day, I plan on it. I would like to see how close it is to the show. If anyone out there had read it, tell us about it in the comments section.

What a cast of characters this show had:

Ug- Kirk Bailey

"Ug-ly, Ug-ly, Ug-ly". The stuff genius is made of. Ug was the over the top, hard headed, hard assed camp counsilor that made everyones life miserable. He thought he was a cool operator, but was everyones inside joke. Ladies man, the law, he thought he was it all. Funny enough, when he wasn't the butt end of everyones jokes, he was usually involved in the schemes. And he wondered why they never took him seriously?

Bobby Budnick- Danny Cooksey

The ultimate bad ass. He was either your best friend or your worst enemy. And for some reason or the next, girls loved him. Not so much the ones in the show, not all the time at least, but all of the ones I knew who watched it. i guess its the sex appeal that comes with being a bad boy. He certainly lived up to the reputation, but what made Budnick interesting to me was the fact that he was a mix of Iceman, in regards to the badass swagger he carried, and Ralph Cramden, with all the get rich quick schemes and all. What made him engaging though was the fact that there was a shred of humanity in there. he wasn't afraid to be, well, afraid. Remember the episode when they left him in the middle of the woods alone?

Donkeylips- Michael Bower

Dina said to him that his breath smelled like a wet diper, but there was nothing watered down about this big man. Budnick's right hand man, Donkeylips was the muscle in the operation, but somehow always ended up on the short end of the stick. Thats how Budnick got ahead though. Despite his allegance to the enemy, people seemed to like this guy. What wasn't there to like? He provided great comic relief, and in my opinion, was the bravest person on this show. After all, he did muster up the courage to make a run at Dina.

Sponge- Tim Eyster

OK, I think most of us could relate to this poor sap. Too smart for his own good, and was never given credit for anything he did. That is, until everyone else saw that there was something in it for them, ala DJ Giant Jim's radio contest. Although I've got to say, how the hell did he have a computer at camp? Did they even have early laptops then? If they did and he managed to bring on and work on homework, I guess he had it coming to him. Lovable none the less.

Dina Alexander- Heidi Lucas

Not much else to say here guys. A lot of you were crushing on this girl big time like Canseco was crushing baseballs. Looking back on it, aside from her looks, there was nothing attractive about her at all. She is every spoiled brat, daddy's little girl who you have ever known. How she ended up at that camp I'm not quite sure. I don't remember if she ever talked about it on the show. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say she was at Anawana for the same reason why Lacey Underall was at Bushwood: get them out of the city and keep them out of trouble. This theory failed on both ends.

Z.Z. Ziff- Megan Berwick

Z.Z. was the character that every show has to have. It's like, the chemistry of every TV show of all time would be thrown off if you didn't have the one character who you wanted to bash with a rock. For me, that was Z.Z. Too artsy and flower childish for her own good. I suppose though, she did add a certain something to the girls cabin. You had the spoiled Dina, and the sporty Telly. Why not the crazy Z.Z. Speaking of Telly...

Telly Radford- Venus DeMilo

An Olympic athlete if I ever saw one. She was one of these competitive types who was great at every sport she played...literally. You could give her baci ball and she'd kick your ass. And funny enough, she wanted to and she enjoyed it. Every camp had one of these people, and all you could hope for was that you got picked to be on her team. At the same token, you didn't want to be her dance partner, just ask Zeke The Plumber.

Michael Stein- Erik MacArthur

The new kid in camp. Infamous for having his shorts as the ones that were, in fact, saluted. The girls liked him on camera, the girls liked him off camera. Michael was a pretty good guy all around. The character was good enough to get messed with by Budnick, but from time to time, was able to stick it to him. As season one went on, you could tell he was more comfortable in his surroundings. I suppose this would have been the case in real life, you know, new kid getting used to things and all. Unfortunately, we didn't see how comfortable he really would be...

Ronnie Pinsky- Blake Soper

Depending on what day of the week it is will depend on whether I actually liked this guy or not. I was always back and forth with him, and remain this way 20 years later. Michael was written off the show after one season, and Pinsky replaced him as the new kid in camp. I guess the show was interested in dialing up the mischief with Budnick, Ug, and all other outside parties. This guy was smooth, but to me, he came off more as a doofus than actually cool. More like, he thought he was so smooth, and believed he could come in and take over. Him and his damn cold cuts!

Mail Carrier Mona- Christine Cavanaugh

She delivered the mail to the camp ala canoe. She was a love interest of Ug's, and was over the top in her love for the Postal Service. She served very little purpose, as do most secondary characters on early 90's TV. See them once or twice, and that's about it. The writers should have gone postal and offed Mona before she ever rowed her way to Anawana.

Dr Kahn- Steve Slavkin

...wait a minute...the writer of the original book WAS Dr. Kahn?!?!?! Yes indeedy. The voice of Camp Anawana. Always letting us know when kick ball was, and how we could get a free candy bar if we turned Budnick in...good ol' Dr. Kahn.

Two glorious seasons, and it was gone, much to the surprise of millions of Nick kids in 1992. Why only two seasons? Perhaps it was the fact that the cast grew up very quickly. Think about it, after a certain age, summer camp is done right? Perhaps they couldn't put together the third season with the older cast in order to introduce a new, younger cast in order to keep the show going. Maybe it was the production costs that did them in. Unlike most shows on the network, it wasn't shot at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. This was shot on location in Los Angeles at Griffith Park.

Maybe, just maybe, there were flaws in the writing. Here's what I would have done if I were writing the show:

#1- Ditch Pinsky. This guy, to me, was more clown than badass, and couldn't hold a candle to Bobby Budnick. I'd much rather watch Michael seek revenge, as opposed to some smart ass trying to one up and steal the crown.

#2- Ditch Mail Carrier Mona. While memorable, her brief stay added nothing to the element of the show. The love interest with Ug was lame, and it could have been better if there was another character in her place.

#3- Replace Mona with a female councilor. This would have been a home run for season two. You want mischief? You want a love interest for Ug? Introduce a new full time cast member. This is how it goes down: The girls come back to find out that Ug is a permanent mainstay in the boys cabin. This adds an element of creativeness in regards to the way the guys get away with their schemes. Mischief achieved.

At the same time, you have this new girl staying with Z.Z., Dina, and Telly in their cabin. She wants to make an impression and get the girls to like her, so they start playing pranks on the boys. Maybe, she even does it to try and lighten Ug up a little bit and show him how much fun camp can actually be. Mischief achieved. The boys retaliate. Mischief achieved. While all of this is going on, Ug develops a crush on said councilor, and the boys do what they can to help Ug out, in exchange for something on the side. Maybe an extended curfew, or junk food in the bunks.

Budnick can sell Ug more pleasantries out of his trunk; this eventually turn Ug's face "toilet blue". Donkeylips can teach Ug wrestling, and other such manly activities in an attempt to toughen him up. Could probably teach him how to cook too. Michael can teach Ug how to respect the woman, and Sponge can teach Ug poetry and enlighten him in the ways of high class culture. Ug asks her out, she says yes, and we end on a cliffhanger...


Some people may love it, and some people may hate it, but it would have kept the original cast together, stuck with the premise of season one, and may have been able to get the show to season three where a new crop of campers could be introduced. Then you could have progressed towards season four. I really do believe that, while season two was fun, it wasn't as good as season one, and the show lost track of it's identity. This alternative, I think at least, could have kept it afloat.

And yet, through all of that, it was still my favorite Nick show of all time. Why? For one, the story. Being away from your parents all summer, living in a new place with kids your age and trouble just begging to be caused. Jackpot! Lovable, memorable characters who you wanted to befriend? Bingo. And most of all, it was quite different from the other shows on the network. It had a different feel and message. It says a lot about a show that had a two year run, then re-ran for the next seven.

Remember when Salute Your Shorts was our favorite show? Who were your favorites? What episode sticks out in your mind? Probably Zeke the plumber right?

Until next time, later Retro Junkies.
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