Saturday, April 21, 2018
TV and Media

Throwback Thursday: Local millennials remember Tampa's 'David D TV'

In an age when YouTube is helping fuel peak Clinton-era nostalgia, it was only a matter of time before this one resurfaced.

Local millennials remember David D TV as that show that aired on WFTS-TV* after Captain Planet and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the '90s. It followed a guy with a perfect surfer cut and a single earring, David D, and his mildly mischievous Muppet-looking friend, Smedley.

It would have completely faded into the past if not for someone quietly posting several episodes online a few years ago. They went mostly unnoticed until a recent Reddit post about David D TV started getting attention from people excited to find the old episodes available online.

"I've been trying to figure out this show's name for years," wrote user DanglesWangles on the Reddit post. "I only remember it because they went to a Walmart that was right next to my house growing up."

Those YouTube videos reveal a show that's profoundly weird, Tampa-centric and maybe the most 1990s thing ever. It's also strangely watchable, with a subtle humor and a world where nobody questions a guy whose roommate is a puppet.

"Most shows with puppets, like Sesame Street, they bring the humans into the puppet world. We did the opposite," said David Dodd, who played David D.

Dodd enjoyed a local celebrity status during that run, making public appearances at events like Bucs Fan Fest and marching band competitions.

"I remember doing an appearance at Petland where there was a line of hundreds of people wrapped around the building," said Dodd, now 50. "Whenever I'm in Tampa and I'm doing something around people who are 10 or 20 years younger than I am … I'll be in line for a beer and some guy will go, 'Hey! You're the guy with the puppet.' "

The show started as part of the Fox Kids Club in 1992 as public service-oriented bumpers between cartoons. When the station became an ABC affiliate in 1994, David D TV was turned into a half-hour series for Saturday mornings and ran until around 2000.

"I remember it as the essence of Florida in the '90s," said filmmaker Thomas Nudi, 27, who grew up watching the show in Bradenton. "It's full of orange and pink neon, and everyone had Flock of Seagulls haircuts. Seeing it again brought back all the feels. I grew up in a generation that was the fade out of local stations doing narrative TV. Nothing like that show exists now or ever will again. It's a piece of local history."

David and Smedley's adventures usually took place around Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater because actual sets would have cost more than the show's "shoestring" budget allowed.

They crash a David Hasselhoff fan convention at Tradewinds Resort in the episode "Vacation Nightmare." In "Movie Flakes," they eat cereal in their pajamas inside St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, though it's unclear why. Busch Gardens stands in for ancient Egypt in "Mummies From Mars," though a sign in the background reading "restrooms" kills the illusion.

"Stuck at the Mall" takes place entirely in the Tyrone Square Mall parking lot, where Dave and Smedley become trapped when their shoes stick to discarded chewing gum.

Dodd, whose on-air name is David Jones, has spent the last 21 years hosting what's billed as one of the nation's longest-running morning radio shows, The Jones and Crane Show, on Sarasota's WSRZ-FM 107.9. Locals are more likely to recognize him from his commercial and infomercial work, specifically the ubiquitous Sunsetter Retractable Awnings commercials that run every summer in the area.

He credits David D TV, though, for giving him a start in television.

"It was a crash course. Like going to college," he said. "When it went away, the station manager said, 'The sales team sells news now,' and this just isn't making money. We were heartbroken."

Todd Coyle, a St. Petersburg native who provided the voice and puppeteering for Smedley, now runs a costume business outside of Los Angeles. That career path sprang from his work on David D TV, where he created the Xena: Warrior Princess costumes that David and Smedley wear at Al Lopez Park in the episode "Xenaphobia."

"It was like $50 per show. If we needed an extra character, we'd just get our friends to be in it, or ask someone off the street," Coyle said. "We'd write the shows ourselves, make the props ourselves. We did a whole episode in a mall parking lot. I don't know if you'd call that stupid, or creative or desperate."

Even now, he struggles to explain the show's premise.

"There's a guy and a puppet and they live in a house. We had nothing more concrete than that. Once in awhile we'd think, 'Who are these people and why are they living in this house?' and we couldn't explain it, so we just went with it."

"It was so much fun to hear the recognition when you told people what you did," he said. "When it's over, you miss it. I'm not saying it's the same exactly, but it gives you a little insight into how a famous actor feels when his career is over and nobody knows who he is anymore."

Coyle said he still has one of the Smedley puppets in a box in the attic, though he's scared to look at it for fear it has probably disintegrated.

Contact Christopher Spata at 727-893-8719 or [email protected] Follow @SpataTimes.

*Editor's note: The story has been corrected to reflect that David D TV appeared on WFTS-TV.

 
Comments
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back online: WestworldIt's crazy to think that the first season of Westworld premiered more than a year ago. But the hype surrounding this modern sci-fi series hasn't let up since. In the first season we explored the high-tech theme park of Westworld...
Published: 04/20/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18
Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

I forever sing the praises of Gran Hotel, the gasp-inducing Spanish drama that is hands-down the most addicting show I have ever binged. It's been remade in Italy, Mexico (as El hotel de los secretos) and Egypt (as Grand Hotel but on Netflix as Secre...
Published: 04/19/18
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

Harry Anderson, the actor best known for playing an off-the-wall judge working the night shift of a Manhattan court room in the television comedy series Night Court, was found dead in his North Carolina home Monday. Mr. Anderson was 65. A statement f...
Published: 04/16/18
Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The winter that won’t end has taken its toll on a TV meteorologist in western Michigan.Garry Frank of WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went on a rant to colleagues because they weren’t excited about his forecast.Video of the r...
Published: 04/16/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Food City 500 (resumption, 296 laps left)1 p.m.FoxBaseballRangers at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs7 p.m.ESPNAstros at Mariners10 p.m.MLBCollege softballMississippi State at Mississippi7 p.m.SECN.C. State at ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

Want to see a free movie in North Straub Park?
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/16/18