When I was a burbling tyke, one of the shows I had to watch--in the sense of must-see TV absolutely wanted to watch--was Davey and Goliath. As you can see from the recent Mountain Dew (licensed) parody above, a lot of other kids watched it too.
It's easy to make fun of the simplistic religious moralism of the D&G films, although as a kid who mainlined South Park's Butters I have to confess that thought never occurred to me. But the truth is, these shows were genius. Not just because they snuck in controversial social commentary--the whole idea required a leap of thought that is far from typical in do-gooding, let alone religious media strategy.
On one level, you see in Davey and Goliath an ur-text for Calvin and Hobbes, right down to sledding.
More fundamentally, you see a creator who looked at one medium--television--and saw that the traditional mode of communication in another medium--church--would not fit:
Mr. Sutcliffe was director of Lutheran radio and television ministry in New York when he was approached by church leaders about using television to reach young people, said his daughter, J.T. Sutcliffe of Dallas.
"They wanted to do a little sermonette sort of thing, and Dad said, 'In the television medium, people aren't going to put up with that.' "
He proposed a format that would offer sound theology while being entertaining, his daughter said.
Marshall McLuhan generalized this insight in his observation that a new medium initially repeats prior patterns--TV shows plays and symphonies; people post static pages to the web--until the form of the new medium reshapes how we communicate. In the electronic environment, McLuhan argued, if you don't see that education is also entertainment you understand neither.
Sutcliffe saw that merely replicating old content wasn't enough; fun iconic scenes were the wave of the future. And as we can see by all the Youtube links here, he was right.
Below, a landmark avant-garde parody of D&G: He Was Once by Mary Hestand with Todd Haynes.