From the unmistakable drum beat that opened every episode to all the antics you saw after it started, Recess gave kids all over the world ideas on how to have fun during a brief school break and everyone had a character to relate to.
Yes, this is another Disney show, let’s just get that one out of the way. There will probably be a lot of Disney shows featured here and you know why? Because Disney shows were spectacular in the 90s, there were so many original and imaginative shows on the air. Even if they weren’t completely original, they were still very well put together television shows that had great stories to tell. I still say that we were spoiled in the 90s with cartoons because the ones that are on the air now just don’t stack up but, that’s another story for another day.
On to Recess.
Recess was great, it was a mainstay for my Saturday morning for pretty much the entire run that it had on ABC. I remember waking up every Saturday just to watch Recess. On the surface, it didn’t look like much of a different show but, it really took a different direction than anything I can remember. Not only were you seeing the actions of a bunch of kids hanging out, you were seeing elaborate little plans come to fruition all in the amount of time of a regular Recess. It’s the life of six fourth graders going through Recess as if it’s a society all ruled by King Bob in his chair. It was everything society is in a bite-sized form and it appealed to children and adults alike. I even remember getting some McDonald’s Happy Meal toys relating to the show back in the 90s!
The characters were plentiful and all had unique traits about them.
- TJ Detweiler – he was the master of plans and the ringleader of the gang, he believed in justice and helping everyone.
- Vince LaSalle – he was the competitive athletic one.
- Spinelli – the tough, aggressive one who is like the enforcer of the gang.
- Gretchen Grundler – the geek of the gang also has a big heart and spins a mean yo-yo.
- Mikey Blumberg – the sensitive giant who’s always creating poems.
- Gus Griswald – the paranoid and naive newcomer to the gang.
You also had different minor characters that went against the gang or provided different people for the gang to interact with.
- Muriel P. Finster – the constant antagonist in the series who’s always suspecting trouble.
- Principal Prickley – much the same as Finster although not as tough on the gang,
- Randall Weemes – Spy for Finster, typical snitch.
- Menlo – once TJ’s friend, he is now a very ‘play by the rules’ type person.
- Ms. Grotke – the gang’s eccentric teacher.
- The Ashleys – the rich, spoiled girls, all of which have a sister Brittany and a brother, Tyler.
There were just so many situations that all these characters got into and things that they did that were completely different from what you were seeing on other shows. Things like on ‘The Experiment’ where TJ and Spinelli kissed as an experiment after a minor character, Butch, told them that he saw his brother kiss a girl and like it and that all boys would start going through the same phase replacing fun with girls. ‘The Legend of the Big Kid’ also comes to mind as TJ finds the abandoned playground only to be captured by the Kindergartners and is shown how great being a Kindergartner was.
The show ran from September 13th, 1997 – November 21st, 2001 with a special preview episode on August 31st, 1997. It premiered on Disney’s One Saturday Morning and later on Disney’s One Too. It was showed on ABC Kids until 2004. Disney has announced that Recess will be rerun again on either Disney Channel or Disney XD. Very few episodes have been released on DVD (that whomps) in most markets like nearly every Disney franchise however, the entire series is available via the German iTunes store and is airing reruns in many markets outside the US. There’s always Recess: School’s out on DVD and VHS as well as two other short video compilations but, you’ll likely have to find those on eBay as they’ve been out of print for years.
Recess was great for the 5 years it was on television. It offered something different and something that appealed to every demographic which is very hard to do with a TV show. Most of all though, Recess left us with a feel-good story every time and something to look forward to every Saturday Morning. Hopefully the series will be revived again someday, but even if that never happens, there’s always YouTube to revive this classic.