Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tooniversary: Help!....It's the Hair Bear Bunch! (1971)

What do you get when you cross Yogi Bear with Tennessee Tuxedo and Top Cat (not to mention Sgt. Bilko)? How about the Hair Bear Bunch, who joined CBS' Saturday lineup, along with Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, while H-B's other entries, Josie & the Pussycats, Scooby-Doo, & Harlem Globetrotters, were all in reruns.

Let's explain the concept. Hair Bear (Daws Butler) is the fast-talking con man, always with a get-rich-quick scheme that requires leaving the Wonderland Zoo, which brings to mind Tennessee Tuxedo and his sidekick, Chumley. Square (Bill Calloway, Love, American Style) pilots the Bunch's invisible motorcycle, but you can never tell the expression in his eyes because they're covered by his hat (borrowing a gimmick from the Beetle Bailey comic strip). Bubi (Paul Winchell) talks even faster, mostly in gibberish. Winchell must've had a new ventriloquist dummy in mind when he created Bubi's voice.

Stuck with the thankless task of keeping the Bunch in the Zoo were zookeeper Eustace Peevley (John Stephenson, doing a riff on McHale's Navy's Joe Flynn) and his assistant, the appropriately named Lionel Botch (Joe E. Ross, ex-Car 54, Where Are You?). Ironically, Tennessee aired on the same network----CBS---just a few short years earlier, but had a longer lifespan than the Bunch, who were cancelled after 1 season.

No one could explain how the Bunch had the gadgets to convert their cave from normal zoo quarters into a swinging bachelor pad, and no one ever did. Cartoonsintros uploaded the open to YouTube:



Stephenson would use the Peevley voice again for two other series of note, as Mr. Finkerton on Inch High, Private Eye (1973) and as the Captain in the Galaxy Goof-Ups segment of Yogi's Space Race (1978). Ross would do two more series for H-B, as Sgt. Flint on Hong Kong Phooey (1974), and as one of the ghosts in the Shake, Rattle, & Roll segment of CB Bears (1977). Unfortunately, the Bunch were never seen again.

Rating: B.

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