‘Oh, Davey’

I just heard that the creator of the “Davey and Goliath” TV show died earlier this month.

Richad T. Sutcliffe, who worked for many years in Lutheran communications, was 90. The son of a Lutheran minister, he lived in Dallas.

Davey and Goliath” aired from 1961 to 1976 and had an undeniable impact on the culture. It was what they called a stop-action animated show — or claymation — not unlike “Gumby.”together2.jpg

Every now and then, I hear someone reminisce about an episode of the show (where gee-whiz Davey would inevitably get into a minor bind and learn both the error of his ways and a lesson about God from his dog/conscience).

Or I hear someone mimick Goliath’s way of slurring “Davvvveeey.”

I wonder how many kids who watched the show back then knew that Davey (and Goliath?) were Lutherans. The family name was Hansen.

The show was produced by the Lutheran Church in America, which later merged with two other Lutheran bodies to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988.

According to an obit in the Dallas Morning News:

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.

Mr. Sutcliffe’s team included Gumby creators Art Clokey and Ruth Clokey Goodell.

In 2004, Mr. Sutcliffe recalled that his goal in creating the series was to tell children how much God cares about them but that God also gives them responsibilities. The series featured a boy, Davey Hansen, and his talking dog, Goliath.

“Dad wrote the first several scripts, edited … and was the executive director from the Lutheran church standpoint,” Ms. Sutcliffe said.

It was years before Mr. Sutcliffe realized the impact his work had on viewers.

“People started saying, ‘My children love that,’ or ‘We loved it growing up,’ ” his daughter said. “He’s gotten a lot of good and positive feedback in these years looking back on it. I knew that he was happy with it then.”