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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel. When TV shows and movies are repackaged into DVD box sets, the mundane is transformed into a prized trophy. And one such prize landed in our offices recently. When NPR's Art Silverman started watching what was inside, he realized that his life was intertwined with a classic old show.

ART SILVERMAN: Now, a short musical and cultural quiz. What connects the band Weezer...

(Soundbite of song "Christmas Song")

WEEZER: (Singing) You told me you would be here by my side…

SILVERMAN: To Buckwheat Zydeco?

(Soundbite of song)

SILVERMAN: Think about those names. Then try to tie them to these two late 1960s bands.

(Soundbite of song "Groovin'")

THE RASCALS: (Singing) Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon…

SILVERMAN: The Rascals.

(Soundbite of song "Sunday Will Never Be The Same")

SPANKY & OUR GANG: (Singing) I remember Sunday morning, I would meet him at the park…

SILVERMAN: And Spanky & Our Gang. Spanky, Rascals, Wheezer, Buckwheat - if you don't have the sort of brain that puts things together the way mine does, then you may need this additional tune to help you see the connection.

(Soundbite of song "Good Old Days")

SILVERMAN: That tune is called "Good Old Days," the theme to the "Our Gang" series of the 1920s and 30s. Until I opened and watched the vast, complete collection of all "The Little Rascals" talkies from 1929 to 1938, I hadn't understood how deeply embedded in my generation's consciousness this series was. Like many kids in the 1950s, I watched "Our Gang/Little Rascals" every day. There wasn't that much on daytime TV then. These 80 short films in the DVD set are, for me, a refresher course on the rules of life. Rule one, never skip school by pretending to be sick.

(Soundbite of "Our Gang/The Little Rascals")

Mr. BOBBY HUTCHINS: (As Wheezer): I'd like to play hooky, but I'm afraid.

Unidentified Boy #1: We'll write you some excuses.

Unidentified Boy #2: Now remember, Wheezer. When I blow my nose like this, you'll come in the schoolroom.

Mr. BOBBY HUTCHINS: (As Wheezer) I got you. You blow, me run in school.

Unidentified Boy #1: Now tell me exactly just what you're going to tell our new teacher.

Mr. HUTCHINS: (As Wheezer) (Unintelligible) she's gonna shoot pa.

SILVERMAN: Because if you do that, you'll lose out because the teacher has special plans for the day.

(Soundbite of "Our Gang/The Little Rascals")

Unidentified Woman: This is my first day at the school. You see, I'm going to start with a little party.

Unidentified Man: We'll have the ice cream and cake up to the school right on time.

Unidentified Woman: Children, there will be no school today. A friend of mine who manages the Seaside pier has invited all of you to spend the day there as his guest.

SILVERMAN: Rule two, stay away from castor oil, Limburger cheese and mush.

(Soundbite of "Our Gang/The Little Rascals")

Unidentified Boy #1: Gee, I hate mush.

Unidentified Boy #2: I'm fed up on mush. Ain't you, Spanky?

Mr. GEORGE MCFARLAND: (As Spanky) I don't like mush.

Unidentified Man: You'll eat that mush and like it.

Mr. MCFARLAND: (As Spanky) I'll eat it, but I don't like it.

SILVERMAN: And rule three, if you and your pal Chubby go ahead and climb aboard the working locomotive, even after your dad, the engineer, warned you to stay off, and Hobo Joe jumps on board, watch out.

(Soundbite of "Our Gang/The Little Rascals")

SILVERMAN: He's crazy, and he'll put the train in high speed reverse, jump off and when the locomotive goes forward, your friend, Farina, will get caught in the tracks, and you'll run over him.

And of course, there's other useful lessons to be learned from "Our Gang." Remember when you think you've out run the bully? He'll always be standing right behind you the moment you start to gloat. While I haven't had a chance to use all of these lessons yet in my life, I believe in them all. I can't help it. These films, written by men who grew up at the end of 19th century and meant for audiences in the 20s and 30s, and shown relentlessly in the 50s, were far ahead at their time. "Our Gang" was always an integrated gang, though sometimes Farina, Stymie and Buckwheat were subjected to ridiculous racial stereotyping. That aside, most of the lessons ring true. Oh, and there's one more rule I almost forgot. An escape monkey will always, always run amok.

(Soundbite of "Our Gang/The Little Rascals")

Unidentified Man #1: There's a monkey after me, and I haven't got a trap.

Unidentified Man #2: We'll I've got one.

Unidentified Man #3: Go to Third and Broadway, a drunken monkey, shoot to kill. That is all.

SILVERMAN: Art Silverman, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song "Good Old Days")

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