In Which I Fondly Remember My Obsession With Mister Ed

I think every kid has a fifteen minute phase where they are obsessed with Mister Ed. It’s that weird, old-timey horse show! It’s pretty much a rite of childhood to discover the classic sitcom about a talking horse and become all-consumed by it. Okay, maybe it was only me. But I loved the idea that a show about talking horse even existed. It just seemed so relevatory.

The black and white series, which originally ran from 1958 to 1966, featured a horse named Mister Ed, who only communicated with a man named Wilber. And Mister Ed was always causing hi jinks, like the time he knocked over a barbecue grill and ate all of Carol’s plants. IN THE SAME EPISODE. INSANITY. Or that episode where Wilber ended up in a Mexican jail and Mister Ed had to come to the rescue. I am not even making that up. What a horse. Seriously, people. WHAT. A. HORSE. A horse that solved crimes, fought German spies, and naturally, saved Christmas. Jesus, I’ll take it.

Of course, by the 1980s, it was just a hoary chestnut of a pop culture reference. Yet to me, it felt like I’d discovered some uncharted territory after stumbling upon it on Nick at Nite. “Did you know about Mister Ed?” I’d ask anyone who was old. “Of course!” they would enthusiastically respond, before bursting into a rendition of the show’s theme song.

A horse is a horse, of course of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course that is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed!

They always sang it, every time I asked. Old people are so funny!

To be honest, I got bored with Mister Ed after about two episodes. It couldn’t compete with my gnat-sized attention span finely-tuned on spastic 80s cartoons and Pop Rocks. But it made me nostalgic for something—something from the old, weird America. I’ve always had a soft spot for old, weird things, like the world’s largest ball of twine or creepy wax museums full of staring bearded-men.

I used to think the whole world once existed in black and white. I wondered at how enthralling it must have been when the world became awash in color, like the moment Dorothy stepped into the technicolor Oz for the first time. I flipped through my grandmother’s old black and white photo albums. The pictures had a gentle and aware quality about them. They were of vacations, at the beach, in parks—special occasions. I thought I was lucky to be living in the present, in the full spectrum of color, but I also thought it would not be so bad to sit at the beach and look out on a sepia-toned ocean.

Adults laughed and assured me—perhaps with a little uneasiness—that they had in fact, grown up in color, too. I found it disappointing, the same as when I found out the people didn’t live inside the television. Too bad a talking horse did not live inside of our television. That is a world I wanted to live in.

But there was something even more disheartening about finding out the world had always happened in color. Perhaps I did not exist in a special and vivid time, but instead only a time, like any time, and one that would also pass.

In the future, I’ll have kids, and they’ll imagine my own childhood existed in washed-out and faded colors, on Polaroid pictures tucked into yellow envelopes that smell pulpy and dusty. But their lives will be captured in hi-definition, in megapixels and in gigabytes, in every color on the spectrum, more than even the human eye can distinguish. They’ll believe they live in a particularly special and vivid time, and they’ll be right.

I wonder if they’ll still think people live in the television. There are hundreds of channels on the television now. We only had five, and they didn’t even air programs the full twenty-four hours, so it was entirely plausible. I wonder if they’ll even watch television channels as we know it. Whatever the mode, I’m certain they’ll find a way to stumble upon old Mister Ed. He’s on Hulu now! Seriously. WHAT. A. HORSE.

When they do, they’ll ask me if I know about Mister Ed. And I’ll say yeah, OF COURSE. And God help me, I might even start singing.

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19 responses to “In Which I Fondly Remember My Obsession With Mister Ed

  1. I love this! When I was little I had a ritual around this show. I would take three graham crakers (whole ones, with four sections), make a fort out of pillows on my parent’s bed, and watch it through a spy hole I made in the pillow….. yes, while eating the crackers in bed. And also yes, my mother allowed this.

  2. Back in the 1980, I was working as a military electronics specialist in Tampa, Florida. My boss heard that I’d never seen Mr Ed, so he taped 12 episodes onto a 6-hour VHS tape. Brilliant show. Thanks for reminding me that I’ve missed years — YEARS! — of it.

    Oh, my TV was black and white until I was a teenager. Not because I’m ancient, but because we were broke. When I visited Daddy and saw TV programs awash in color, that just didn’t seem right.

  3. I went through a phase with all of those Nick at Nite shows. I remember in the third grade the teacher asked us what our favorite tv show was and I answered the Patty Duke Show and she was floored that I even knew it. I bet my son would love Mr. Ed know that I think about it…

  4. Ahem…I knew a girl who knew a girl whose Father invented Pop Rocks.

    My claim to fame is a candy that fizzes in your mouth. Typical.

  5. Thanks for the reminder…I always sang that song to you! A horse is a horse, of course, of course…Now the song is gona be stuck in my head!

  6. That’s pretty funny. I used to think the world used to be in black in white back in the day as well. Nick at Nite has definitely changed a lot since then. For a while, it seemed as if they only played George Lopez and the Nanny(I was more of a fan when they would play lots of Roseanne and Fresh Prince). The great thing is now they play Married…With Children! How awesome is that?!

  7. I loved this show. My dad was a veterinarian and this show played into my childhood reality that he could talk to the horses. The original horse whisperer!

  8. I never really loved the show, but I loved my husband’s love for the show. And yes, he was known to occasionally sing along with the theme song. (But only Mr. Ed’s line, in Mr. Ed’s voice: “I am Mr. Ed!”)

  9. I loved the idea of Mr. Ed, but I always got bored with the show a few minutes into it. I was more of a Dennis the Menace and Lassie kid. Damn, I miss those two shows. Why doesn’t Nick play those any more? Or Mysterious Cities of Gold? Or You Can’t Do that on Television? Or Out of Control? Or Double Dare? I think Nick should give us a new channel: Nick 80’s.

  10. Loved Ed. It made sense . . . compared to say The Monkees.

  11. Wonderful essay. I wonder if the divide between black and white and color will be repeated now with pre-internet and post-internet…

  12. I heard that Nick at Night is going to start playing some of the old television series from the 90’s. Which, since I am younger, are the shows I used to watch as a kid. Such as Hey Arnold, Cat and Dog, and the Rugrats.

  13. I loved Mister Ed! But Green Acres was my favorite. I was also just thinking about Flipper because I have an 18-month-old who is slightly obsessed with dolphins right now. Ohhh Old Nickelodeon, where would we be without you?

  14. I never missed Mr. Ed.

    I was shocked to learn, however, that the creature who played Mr. Ed was in fact a female zebra!

    Who’da thunk it?

    http://www.snopes.com/lost/mistered.asp

  15. that article is a prank by Snopes. It’s a horse! of course!
    http://www.snopes.com/lost/false.asp

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