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Nerdstalgia: My Toy Disappointments

Tonight, the Nerdist TV specials return to BBC America with two episodes, one a look back at San Diego Comic-Con International at 9/8c and another a “Tribute to Toys and Games” at 10/9c. The latter brings back memories for me, but, to my surprise, I’m remembering less of the joys of the toys and games of my too-distant youth and more of the less-than-golden moments. So, herewith, let’s take a look at a few of the most disappointing toys of my youth:

Slinky: Oh, I’m not going to try and claim that Slinky isn’t a classic. Sure, it’s a national treasure and all that. But see how that Slinky just keeps going and going on that treadmill? That’s not the reality I knew. This is what Slinky was for me:

1. Take Slinky out of box.
2. Slinky immediately gets tangled.
3. Undo tangle, Slinky slightly deformed.
4. Take slightly deformed Slinky to top of stairs.
5. Send Slinky down stairs.
6. Slinky goes down two stairs, stops.
7. Repeat steps 2-6.

Fun for the entire family!

Geoffrey Putty: Silly Putty was great, even if it didn’t exactly have a point. So you could press it against the newspaper comics, lift the image, and stretch it. That provided seconds of amusement. Then what? You could bounce it, although it wasn’t as effective as an actual Super Ball. You could squish it like a a stress ball; I still do that (yes, I have Silly Putty right here on my desk). And when you got bored, you could throw it at your sister. (Sorry, Joan) But that was Silly Putty.

Geoffrey Putty was not Silly Putty. Or, more precisely, it was Silly Putty under another name. Geoffrey Giraffe, you might recall, is the corporate mascot of the Toys”R”Us chain of toy stores, and for a time, they sold a store-brand knockoff of Silly Putty called Geoffrey Putty. There was nothing wrong with Geoffrey Putty, to be honest, but the name and the packaging. Instead of the red plastic egg with “Silly Putty” embossed on it, enclosed on a card that resembled a late-1950s TV set, you got an egg with nothing on it, on a card with Geoffrey’s head on it and the words “Geoffrey Putty” in a generic font. Mom and Dad brought you Geoffrey Putty, you’d just look at it and think about legal emancipation.

I kinda liked Geoffrey Putty, to be honest with you, because it was so ludicrous. Putty doesn’t have a common human first name. Were its parents Bob and Betty Putty? Did it have a sister, Doris Putty? I imagined it did. Did I say this was disappointing? Maybe it wasn’t.

By the way, there are no images of Geoffrey Putty on the Internet, none that I could find, anyway. I went down to the local Toys”R”Us store and they didn’t have it. They didn’t even have Silly Putty. That’s practically un-American.

Electric Football: I’ve been here before.

Mr. Potato Head: Don’t get me wrong, Ol’ Tater was cool, but, let’s face it, how many times can you put the eyes where the mouth should go before you got bored with this thing? Maybe it would have been better when he was a real potato:

Yes, he was. But even then, you create a face, and then… what? You’re sitting there with a potato with a face. Whoop-de-damn-doo.

Whee-Lo: Science! It was this thing with a handle and a magnetic wheel on a sort-of ramp, and you turned it so that the wheel would go to the end, flip around, and come back, whereupon it would do it again. I wanted this thing so badly, and then I got it. I put several hours of practice into it until I got it to do the trick, and then I got bored. And Whee-Lo got put away and never touched again. A lot of toys are like that. You play it a couple of times, get the hang of it, realize it’s boring, and move on. It’s a lot like real life that way.

And maybe that’s the point of disappointing toys. They prepare you for adulthood. In disappointing you, they get you ready for a lifetime of things not quite panning out the way you expect them to work. “Not as fun as I hoped”: There’s a universal slogan for you.

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What toys weren’t hours-of-fun for you? Drop ‘em in the comments….

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Watch the Nerdist TV specials on BBC America Saturday night (July 28, 2012) at 9/8c and 10/9c

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8 comments

  • Transformers. I had them, I loved them as a kid. I only had 4 of the constructicons so I couldn’t make the big guy but that was ok.

    Then years later Michael Bay made the only movie sequel ever which could ruin things that came before it.

    But seriously, 10 hours of solving all the puzzles, collecting ID cards and shooting dinosaurs in the origional SNES Jurrassic Park Game, (Which you can’t save- I paused it and ate dinner with the TV off.) Only to discover that there was a glitch which made the game impossible to beat.

  • Oh and in regard to the Coleco Electric Football (which I almost figured out how to get it to work), another one of the coolest and disappointing tabletop games was Subbuteo – or Weeble-Wobble soccer, if you will.

    It came with next to no instructions, but everything else to make one of the most boring OUTDOOR sports even more boring to play inside. And this is coming from someone that played soccer.

  • As a child of the early electronic toy/game era, there was the promise of wonderful things to play with and program. All of which annoyed my parents and wound up quickly deposited by me into the toy box, never to see the light of day again.

    ROM: The Spaceknight: A Marvel comic character based on the toy made by the board game company Parker Brothers. It did next to nothing, but it had L.E.D. EYES YOU GUYS!

    Big Trak: Another electronic toy by another board game company — Milton Bradley. You used a keypad to make it do things. It was tedium trying to get it to do anything. It was minutes and minutes of fun that took hours and hours to program.

    Big Jim: I got this probably because my mom was against the war in Vietnam, so no G.I. Joe for me! I got the smaller, metrosexual half-brother that was like James Bond permanently on vacation. Plus there was an in-joke between my parents about the name, since it was my dad’s name too. Eww.

    Radio Flyer Classic Dual-deck tricycle: With a bell on the handlebars and tassels on the ends, it is still being made to this day. And gay as a picnic basket compared to the Big Wheel and Green Machine, which is what everyone else had.

    *sigh* No wonder I latched on so hard to video games at the arcades, and then at home when the first consoles were available.

  • I had a slinky as a kid, but it was useless as we lived in a single-story house.

    I had a Mr. Potato Head in college (I was wacky!). One of my roommates took off all his features, wrapped him in aluminum foil, put his features back on, and placed him in the fireplace. It was wacky

  • Bulletman! He was a 12″ action figure who was supposed to slide down a string super fast http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTBeA9kZVUo
    Well, I got one for Hanukkah one year. I pulled him out of his package, set him up, tied the string to a doorknob and… nothing. I then had my dad attach the string to the top hinge of the door, thinking that the angle wasn’t steep enough. Dad held the doll at the top, let him go and… wiggle-wiggle-stop. I shook the string… wiggle-wiggle-stop. I walked it next to the door… wiggle-wiggle-stop. Bulletman was useless. He got some play as a regular action figure (always a henchman, never the hero/villian for this failure) but eventually was subsumed in a fire of other failed toys.