When the misty haze of nostalgia combines with the heady wine of threatening strangers on the Internet, it’s important to remember that even before Michael Bay sodomized America’s collective childhood, that childhood had already thoroughly sodomized itself.
Case in point: a 1990 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that’s basically an hour-long infomercial for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out Of Their Shells tour, from an ephemeral moment in pop-culture history when the Ninja Turtles’ publicist was more powerful than Oprah’s. Harpo isn’t trying to deny the episode’s existence—it was included on a 14 Most Unlikely Oprah Shows list published on its website in 2011. But it had never resurfaced in its entirety (a really crappy rip of the last ten minutes was uploaded in 2011) before yesterday, when Tumblr user Uncanny Brett White posted the episode from a VHS tape he found at his mom’s house.
Beginning with its remote open, the episode has everything an irony-saturated “‘90s kid” could ask for—corny one-liners, a tell-all interview with “April,” “live” performances, and the delicious pleasure of watching one of the world’s most powerful women saying “party dude.” Always a consummate professional, Oprah handles being called “baby” by a guy in a turtle costume with grace, even when she has to spout canned lines like “I understand on the concert tour, you’ve been having problems because of Shredder?” In fact, it’s the kids in the audience who ask the real hard-hitting questions. They’re mostly about fighting, which the Turtles deflect by reminding the little sugary cereal-crazed monsters that books are cooler than violence (books that will be transferred into BOOK IT! points redeemable only at Pizza Hut). But the real reason to watch the episode is for the moms in the audience, including one who says she walked backward down Michigan Avenue with a pair of TMNT underwear on her head to win Ninja Turtles tickets for her kids.