Television: You Can't Do That on Television: Clothing Episodes and Sketches

Figure 1.--One of garments that figured prominantely in many episodes is the sailor suit. Chris is being sent to school in a sailor suit and the other kids paugh at him. Later in the same show he sets off for school in leather jacket and jeans and the other kids, now all in sailor suits, laugh at him again. "Look at Chris! Whose Mommy doesn't dress him in a sissy sailor suit? Nya nya nya!"

Many episodes included clothing. Often skits were built around the boys being dressed in dresses, kilts, sailor suits, Fauntleroy suits, diappers, and other outfits boys might find enbarassing. These skits always involved the boys. I don't remember skits involving the girls in outfits that they might find embarassing. I assume the prevalence of this comic device is a reflection of what children might find funny. I assume it was usually the boys involved because boy viwers would finf it funny, but that girls viewers might not find it somamusing. Often the boys magically appeared in these outfits. Skits might have the boys wearing these outfits as a matter of course. Sometimes the boys appeared in balet tights and tu-tus. I'm not sure just why other than for comic relief.


A number of garments figured rominately in many "You Casn't Do That on Television sketches foir comic affeect. They were mostly sketches involving the boys. Some of the garments most commonly involved in these sketches were diappers, dresses, Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits, and short pants.


One show had Alister, at about 14-15 in a diaper, bib, and baby bonnet. I forget now the story line, but his parents don't let him talk, informing him he will be treated like a baby. There were quite a few skits in various episodes involved diappers. In another episode one boy is shown in diapers with his leather jacket in a bit about hand me downs.


One of the favorite garments to outfit the boys for comic affect was dresses. We recall several episoides.

One scene has Alister comes home from school in a dress. His slovenly father complains, "Why do you make the boy wear dresses to school." His mother explains how he was misbehaving and since she put him in dresses he has been a model child. The camera pans to Alister who smiles sweetly. "It is called dress discipline," the mother adds. The father says, "Oh, yes. I remember. My mother did that to me too, and look how I turned out." The mother gasps and orders Alister up to his room to put his pants on.

A girl is shown sitting on a coach in the family living room. She complains to her mother, "It just isn't fair that I have to wear this old yellow dress. Her mother says, "Now you know your mother likes you in yellow." The girl replies, "But mother, it's not fair that I have to wear this ugly yellow dress, and Alister get's to wear the pretty pink dress. The mother puts her foot down, "Now dear, you know your grandmother likes you in a yellow dress and likes Alister in the pink dress." The camera pans to Alister who is pictured in a really ruffly, and very short pink dress.

I saw one 1989 sequence. A little blond boy, Christopher, teases a girl for wear a sissy looking dress with a bow. She grabs him and pulls him behind a stage prop and all of a sudden his clothes start flying up in the air. Then suddenly you see his head yelling "Help!" Then she drags him back to the other kids dressed in her dress. I must not have understood the scene fully, as he has been padded to look fat for some reason.

I saw just the end of one show. A little girl was embarrassed and complaining, "I look like a sissy." Mom was making her wear a frilly little girl style dress with a big bow and white knee socks. The closing clips also show the children in nice white sailor suits, including shorts and knee socks for the boys. I don't know but the show could have been about embarrassing clothes moms make kids wear.

One episode dealt with discipline and lots of punishments were threatened. The mother put a little blond boy in a dress and Mary Jane strap shoes for teasing the girls.

Fauntleroy suits

Sailor suits

We see sailor suits in many "You can't do that on TV" episodes. Usually this was a white sailor suit. It was presented as an outfit that only little boys would wear as was the case when the program eas produced in the 1980s. The producer of "You cam't do that on TV" tells us that as a little boy, " I loved the sailor suit. We lived near a port and during and just after the war I saw lots of tough looking Popeye characters wearing them. Also mine had a whistle which I went around blowing and driving adults mad. Mysteriously the pea disappeared from it overnight and it wouldn't work any more. My dad said I must have worn it out. The sailor suits satirized on YCDTOTV, however, had a different provenance in my subconscious. "

Short pants

boy complains about the little shorts his mother makes him wear.


One boy is shown teasing his brother about the angel costume he has to wear until he learns that he has to wear one also. A boy is shown as the first cheer leader (in a short skirt) for the football team



Another day I saw a nice bit on their opposites segment. Boys are sent to summer camp wear they have to do all the things that their mothers want them to do, like taking dancing lessons. The boys are done up in blazers, grey shorts, and knee socks. In another episode during an opposite episode they younger boys are shown hazing the seniors.

Summer camps

At a summer camp a counselor lines up his campers. They are all in sailor suits and other little boy outfits. He makes a joke which I don't remember about them all being funny.


A show specializing on the first day of school had a mother sending her son off to school. He protests about his clothes and proceeds to strip down to his underpants and run back in the house. His mother bangs on the door demanding he go off to school. He says he can't because he doesn't have any clothes on.

A boy is being sent to "Snob Academy" by his mother. His friends come by and tease him about his new uniform (blazer, grey shorts, and knee socks). He complains and she comes up with various excuses concerning his friends and father, but finally admits it is so she can show him off to her friends.

Special Shows

New owners

A show specializing on new owners for the show has the kids in a variety of costumes. Alister appears in very short lederhosen which he fusses about, warning the girls not to say anything. Interestingly when he gets slimed, he has on short shortalls instead of his lederhosen. Later the boys are put in kilts after a Scotsman buys the show. The boys protest that these are the worst costumes of all.


A show which must have dealt somewhat with ballet as the boys and man who manages the show appeared in ballet tutus. Unfortunately I only came in at the end, so I don=t know the story line. A boy in a ballet tutu is pulled out of a locker in the football team dressing room.

In one sequence a boy comes home and finds his mother gushing because his picture is in the newspaper. He is interested until he finds mom has sent in his picture in his dancing costume. Mom beams with pride, pointing out that she made it herself. (It is he in a ballet tutu.) The boy is aghast and turns to retrieve as many papers as possible from the neighbors. But, before he can one of his friends shows up to tease him and to say he is going to tell all their friends at school.

In another sequence, mom has dragged the whole family to the ballet. Father and son are bored. The boy is wearing proper grey flannel shorts. He is complaining about the whole affair, including a boy dressed in sissy tights. Then he notices that the dancer is one of his friends at school. The scene ends as the two start fighting.

The show ends when the kids saying good bye, but all of a sudden their parents rush the stage and start hugging and kissing them and of course embarrassing them to tears.


Another show about jealousy had a couple skits. A little blond boy in the opposite segment complains about the new dress the mother got for him to wear to school. She asks him why. He says that the other boys will be jealous about it. In a scene at camp the boys are complaining about mosquitoes. Alister is wearing short shorts and his little friend slaps to get the mosquitoes.


On a show dealing with their pay, the kids are drafted for a fashion show. At first you can only see the girls, all wearing fancy dress, who tell the moderator the boys aren't too happy. Then the camera pans to the boys. Adam and an older Alister (about 14-15) are in fancy woman's dresses. Little Ameis who is dressed in a frilly little girl's pink dress with white knee socks, and black patent leather shoes. The dress is a quite nice one, little girl knee length. He has shyly kept on his white shorts. They are all most unhappy. Then the announcer informs them that they are getting paid which changes their attitude. Even little Alister is pleased and twirls his dress around.


One interesting show was a show about fantasies. It began with some rather boring fantasies the kids had. But then the producer announced that the show wasn't just about the kids' fantasies. 1) Then they had to face mom's fantasy. Bingo they are in a living room with two of the boys in short pants sailor suits complete with white knee socks. One boy is playing the piano. The other is fanning mommy. The girls are in proper sailor suits, but nothing fancy like the boys' sailor suit. Another boy in a navy blue suit comes in with dinner. He was wearing an apron, I couldn't see if he was in longs. 2) Next was the teacher's fantasy. The boys were all wearing blue blazers, flannel grey shorts, grey knee socks, and leather shoes. They are perfectly behaved and all eagerly raising their hands to be called on. Of course the boy called on by the teacher had a snooty British accent. At this point they return to the stage where the boys are covering their eyes and pleading with the producer. "Is it over? Is it over?" they plead and complain about the sissy sailor suit. 3) Next was a camp fantasy. The camp counselor marches the three boys in. They are eager for their camping activities, but the counselor announces they will be getting piano and ball room dancing lessons and learn the principles of good grooming and dressing. One boy complains, "But those aren't kid fantasies." The counselor answers, "Of course not, they are your mothers' fantasies." He then brings in a boy who is just leaving the camp, dressed in a blue blazer, with tie, grey shorts, and knee socks. 4) Finally the producer produces a fantasy machine, all set with a girl's fantasies. The kids don't believe it and activate it. Bingo, every one, both boys and girls, are in ballet tutus, complete with frilly skirts, white tights, and ballet slippers. They are ordered to get up and dance about. Two of the boys do it grudgingly, the younger boys, Ameus, prances about very convincingly.


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Created: June 2, 2001
Last updated: 11:15 PM 9/2/2009