Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturtainment: Westwind (1975)

In the mid-70's, the networks thought it'd be a good idea to put more live-action programming on Saturday mornings, turning back the clock, if you will, to the 50's and early 60's.

Producer William P. D'Angelo already had 1 hit on NBC with Run, Joe, Run, renewed for a 2nd season. Joining Joe on the schedule was Westwind, a comeback vehicle for 60's star Van Williams (ex-The Green Hornet). This was more of a family drama that could just as easily have been repurposed in primetime had NBC been so inclined. Unfortunately, Westwind would be Williams' swan song, his last series gig, as it was cancelled after 1 season. 70'skidvid uploaded the open, with the inestimable Paul Frees as the announcer, the same gig he had on Run, Joe, Run:



Regrettably, I never saw the show. I was watching the competition, particularly Ghost Busters, so I cannot give it a fair rating.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Johan & Peewit (1981)

Part of the deal that brought the Smurfs to NBC in 1981 included another set of characters from the pen of Smurf creator Peyo. Johan & Peewit debuted in Belgian comics written & illustrated by Peyo around the late 50's, and met the Smurfs in a number of adventures, some of which may or may not have been adapted for American television.

Johan was a page in the King's court, and Peewit (pronounced Peewee) was his sidekick and best friend. The duo made their American debut, and their first television meeting with the Smurfs, in the episode, "The Cursed Country".



As you can see, there was an alternate open, using a theme tailored for our heroes, but using the visual open for Smurfs.

Michael Bell, also the voice of Handy Smurf, spoke for Johan, while Frank Welker was the voice of Peewit, whose voice was not too dissimilar to that of Marvin from the original Super Friends. Johan & Peewit became a regular feature on Smurfs, especially after the series was expanded to 90 minutes.

For what it's worth, and I only found out about this recently, the "Smurfs" feature film has had its released pushed up from its originally announced December date to July 29, so you can expect Boomerang, which ran a Smurfs marathon earlier today, to do another one around that time.

Rating: A.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Batfink vs. "The Copycat Bat" (1967)

One of the many superhero satires to hit the air in the late 60's was Batfink, a sendup of not just Batman, but also The Green Hornet. Hal Seeger (Milton the Monster) opted to syndicate Batfink, with the shorts airing as part of weekday compilation packages in its initial run in 1966. The series was later brought back when Nickelodeon acquired it to use on comic Marc Weiner's Weinerville show in the 90's. Boomerang was the last network to hold the rights at last check, and aired Batfink on Saturdays as part of its now-defunct Cartoons Without a Clue lunch time block.

Comedian and television personality Frank Buxton (Discovery) voiced Batfink and arch-foe Hugo A-Go-Go, among others, while Karate, the clumsy sidekick, was played by Len Maxwell (who'd make a comeback 30 years later on MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch). To give you some idea of the simplicity of the plotting (most episodes were written by TV vet Heywood "Woody" Kling), here's "The Copycat Bat", uploaded by PeppeRaskell1 to YouTube:



Obviously, subtlety was not in Hugo's vocabulary, which is why he's always easily beaten.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rein-Toon-ation: Olive Oyl in the Army (1981)

Well, blow me down!

As we all know, Popeye served in the Navy. In 1981, some genius at Hanna-Barbera decided to enlist Popeye's girlfriend, Olive Oyl, in the Army, along with Alice the Goon. The result was Private Olive Oyl, 1/2 of the rebooted Popeye & Olive Comedy Show, as the former All-New Popeye Hour was trimmed to 30 minutes. The idea was to do a sendup of the movie, "Private Benjamin", which later became a TV show itself. However, Olive came off more as a distaff version of that other military cut-up, Gomer Pyle, USMC!

H-B had also decided to send primetime icons Laverne & Shirley into the Army over on ABC, but Olive & Alice, it seems, got the better of the deal. They had a female commanding officer in Sgt. Bertha Blast (Jo Anne Worley, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), while Laverne & Shirley were stuck with a pig (Ron Palillo, ex-Welcome Back, Kotter). Both series lasted two seasons, with Laverne & Shirley being joined by their pal Fonzie (Henry Winkler) for season 2.

One of these days, I'll find a Laverne & Shirley in the Army clip, but for now, courtesy of ShawnActor, here's Olive & Alice in "Snow Foolin'":



And ya wonder why this show aired at the bottom of CBS' lineup......

Rating: D.

Game Time: Dungeons & Dragons (1983)

Role playing games (RPG's) were very, very popular in the 1980's. I should know. My brother was into this while in high school, and kept a couple of them at home. The most popular RPG of the period was Dungeons & Dragons, which was adapted into a Saturday morning cartoon by Marvel Productions, in conjunction with TSR Games, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons, for CBS in 1983.

As the open, uploaded by Superherocartoonsite, shows, our players are transported into the D & D world through a portal at a carnival. Hokey, I know, but how else to make the show work?

The voice cast includes Don Most (Happy Days, Fonz & the Happy Days Gang) and Adam Rich & Willie Aames (Eight is Enough), along with the seemingly ever-present Frank Welker. Here's the open:



Unfortunately, I never saw the show, as in my area, the program was often blacked out, airing as it did around 11 am (ET). Therefore, no rating.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: In No Hurry (1972)

My personal favorite Brady Kids track is their cover of "Me & You & A Dog Named Boo", but that's not yet available on YouTube. However, here is an original selection that is--"In No Hurry". You'll notice that Filmation opted to redraw the band poses originally used on The Archie Show 4 years earlier. Simply sub Greg & Peter for Archie & Reggie, Bobby for Jughead, and so on. Uploaded by Windsorbear:



Just as regrettable is the fact that most of the musical numbers were queued by their made-for-the-show pet mynah, Marlin (Larry Storch), but those queues are also in absentia.....

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Funky Cops (2001)

Funky Cops made its American debut on Fox, imported by 4Kids Entertainment for the network's Saturday morning FoxBox block, in 2003, but originally premiered in France in 2001. Unfortunately, the series, which was set in disco-era San Francisco, was given a quick hook due to poor ratings. Well, it wasn't the only cartoon paying homage to 70's crime dramas at the time (Disney's Fillmore!, over on ABC, was formatted in the style of Quinn Martin's classic dramas), but apparently the exaggerated character designs, coupled with the late-70's setting, might've been a turnoff.

Currently, Kabillion holds the rights, and an episode is available On Demand (check with your cable operator). You can't really tell this was done on a computer, but it was. The idea was to cross "Pulp Fiction" (but without the language and violence) with Starsky & Hutch, but it just didn't work.

Here's the intro:



Rating: D.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: Sky King (1951)

A year ago, I wrote a DVD review of this series for my other blog, The Land of Whatever, without bothering to mention that Sky King enjoyed a couple of runs on Saturday mornings in the 50's & 60's.

Sky King was a modern-day Western series, whose hero (Kirby Grant) flew into action at the helm of his personal plane, Songbird, often aided by his niece, Penny (Gloria Winters). Creativelocation uploaded this open, which includes a sponsor's spot for Nabisco (now part of the Kraft family of brands):



Like most heroes of the period, Schuyler "Sky" King fought the usual assortment of thieves and other seedier types. The series last aired as a Saturday morning entry on the Family Channel (now ABC Family) in the late 80's or early 90's. And to think that the show started off airing on Sunday afternoons!

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman sings the blues (2004)

From the Justice League Unlimited episode, "This Little Piggy":

The scenario: Circe (special guest star Rachel York) has turned Wonder Woman into a pig. The Batman (Kevin Conroy), in order to restore the Amazing Amazon to normal, does something rather, well...............unusual, for him. The reactions of Circe and Zatanna are priceless.

Oh, one other thing. Circe's cover in this story was that of a cabaret singer, which allowed Rachel York a rare opportunity to sing, as well. I'll see if I can pull that up sometime.

The point of the plot? As I noted in reviewing Justice League Unlimited, the writers tried to create a romance between Batman & Wonder Woman, although most fans would've preferred a Wonder Woman-Superman coupling (contrary to the comics, Supes wasn't married to Lois Lane on this show). Just for good measure, a decade earlier, producer Paul Dini had established that Zatanna was a childhood sweetheart of Bruce Wayne's, at least to an extent.

Anyway, you may never listen to Cole Porter the same way again after hearing this cover of "Am I Blue"......

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Frankenstein Jr. (1966)

Frankenstein Jr. may have gotten top billing for his half-hour CBS series with The Impossibles, but it was the middle feature on the show. As we know, Moby Dick got the same treatment the very next year, which only goes to prove that in some cases, size doesn't always matter!

Anyway, Frankenstein Jr. (Ted Cassidy, ex-The Addams Family) was a 30-foot tall robot created by juvenile scientist Buzz Conroy (Dick Beals), who was also Frankie's partner in crime-fighting, but didn't bother with a mask & tights, although he did put a domino mask on Frankie, just for fun. Together, the two fought an array of campy villains.

Here's a rarely seen bumper that leads to Frankie's adventures.



10 years later, NBC would acquire the rights to Frankenstein Jr., this time coupling Frankie with Space Ghost reruns as a mid-season replacement. This time, Frankie was relegated to second banana status, but for those of us who didn't get to see the cartoons the first time, it was a welcome treat.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Justice League Unlimited (2004)

After 2 successful seasons, WB decided to risk messing with the concept of Justice League by expanding the scope of the series and its cast, thus the title change to Justice League Unlimited in 2004.

While the League's roster expanded to seemingly infinite proportions, using a number of characters that hadn't been active in the comics in quite some time, the producers opted for longer story arcs as well. Chief among those was the introduction of the Secret Society of Super Villains, which was also revived in the comics around the same time. The Society's TV incarnation used an upgraded version of the Legion of Doom's Hall of Doom (the Darth Vader helmet-shaped mobile HQ from Challenge of the Super Friends) as their base, and like the League, had a pretty deep roster to work with.

However, one of the better episodes of the series was the season 1 opus, "Kid Stuff", in which Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, & Wonder Woman are transformed into kids to thwart Mordred's plot to take over the world by banishing adults, including his own mother, Morgaine LeFey, whose nemesis, Etrigan, the Demon, also appears. Most notable about this episode is that the juvenile Amazon is voiced by actress Dakota Fanning.

Here's a sample of "Kid Stuff":



By this point in the series, there were hints of a romance between Wonder Woman & Batman, which started in "Starcrossed: The Movie". Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Flirting certainly seems to be out of character for an Amazon, doesn't it, though?

Rating: A.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Teen Titans (2003)

There are two schools of thought in relation to Cartoon Network's adaptation of Teen Titans, which ran for 5 13-episode "seasons" over a 3-year period (2003-06), finishing with a made-for-TV movie, "Trouble in Tokyo", which aired in 2007.

On the one hand, the Americanized anime look of the show makes it strikingly different from the rest of the DC cartoons produced by WB, and targeted fans of anime in general as well as long-time Titans fans, especially those who came on board with the seminal New Teen Titans book by Marv Wolfman & George Perez, which was one of the first "hot" comics of the 80's.

On the other, some of those same fans objected either the anime format or the de-aging of some of the characters, particularly Starfire, aka Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran. When Koriand'r was introduced in 1980, she appeared to be in what would be her late teens in earth age, clearly eye candy for the boys. In the cartoon, however, Koriand'r appears to be around 13-14 in earth years, and very, very naive. As for Beast Boy, the emerald skinned shapeshifter, he too had been de-aged for the cartoon, and the producers put more emphasis on the "Beast" in his name by giving him fangs & pointed ears. In the 80's, he had his name changed to "Changeling", with the character stating that he wanted to be considered more of an adult. Not only that, but Changeling was also a wanna-be playboy and actor in the comics back in those days.

The characters were never seen out of costume, which really wasn't much of an issue, but it left open a great deal of debate over which of the comic book Robins was being used. It was later established that it was the original (Dick Grayson), again falling into line with the comics.

The series' lead villain, Slade (Ron Perlman, "Hellboy"), was an analog for his comic book persona as Deathstroke, the Terminator (real name: Slade Wilson). While Robin & Starfire almost immediately became a couple in the comics, it took a couple of "seasons", at least, before they even began dating on television.

Data2007 uploaded the show's theme song, performed by the Japanese duo, Puffy AmiYumi, who would later get their own show:



5 years after the series ended, this version of the Titans remains popular with fans, and reruns air periodically on Boomerang.

Rating: C.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturtainment: Yo! MTV Raps! (1988)

Yo! MTV Raps! aired 6 days a week for most of its run (1988-95). DJ Fab 5 Freddy (Fred Braithwaite), who was immortalized in the lyrics of Blondie's 1981 hit, "Rapture", served as the Saturday host, traveling on location. Doctor Dre (not to be confused with Dr. Dre) and Ed Lover hosted from the studio on weekdays. Rap was a hot music genre at the end of the 80's and well into the 90's.

Yo! occupied the 10-11 (ET) berth on Saturday mornings, giving teens and young adults an alternative to network fare such as Pee-Wee's Playhouse & Alvin & the Chipmunks, to use a couple of examples. During Spring Break in March, Yo!, like the rest of MTV's core programming, would be on location, usually from Daytona Beach, but in those cases, it was Ed & Dre filling in, as I do not recall Fab 5 doing a Saturday show during Spring Break.

With MTV having all but abandoned music entirely, the clips available on YouTube are all that's left of a classic. Here's the intro to the weekday edition:



Rating: A-.

Toonfomercial: Super Friends Create-A-Villain Contest (1981)

In 1981, Post Cereals (now part of Kraft) ran a promotion with the aid of DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera encouraging kids to create their own super villains to battle the Super Friends. To be fair, there was also a Create-a-Hero contest, too.

VintageTVCommercials uploaded this ad, featuring Superman (Danny Dark), Wonder Woman (Shannon Farnon), Batman (Olan Soule), & Robin (Casey Kasem). Long-time H-B standby John Stephenson is the announcer, subbing for narrator Bill Woodson:



Sad to say, the contest didn't get very far. I can't recall if the winning entries in either contest were ever used.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Duck Dodgers (2003)

With Daffy Duck back on the air on Cartoon Network's Looney Tunes Show, it's time to take a look back at his last outing on CN.

Duck Dodgers was spun off from a pair of theatrical shorts starring Daffy & Porky Pig that were released back in the 50's. As the title implies, Dodgers (Daffy) is a parody of sci fi hero Buck Rogers, with Porky as "The Eager Young Space Cadet". Yeah, that's how he was billed (no pun intended).

In truth, Dodgers was a futuristic Maxwell Smart in that he bumbled his way through every adventure, and while he didn't exactly win the day a good part of the time, well, that was the whole beauty of the show!

Regrettably, Cartoon Network saw fit to cancel Dodgers after 2 seasons and a myriad of schedule changes.

Slipknotforevrr uploaded the open & closing credits:



Rating: A-.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: The Monkees (1966)

After The Monkees ended a 2-year run on NBC in 1968, CBS picked up the series to fill a hole in their Saturday morning lineup, a move which can be filed under serendipity, considering that the late Don Kirshner, who was the brains behind the Monkees, had moved on to converting comic book icon Archie Andrews and his friends into pop stars, and The Archie Show was the centerpiece of CBS' 1968-9 lineup! For at least one year, The Archies & The Monkees were on the same network.

The following clip showcases Monkees drummer-lead singer Micky Dolenz, who had previously starred under his given name of Mickey Braddock in the short-lived Circus Boy a few years earlier. Micky would later venture into cartoons, signing on with Hanna-Barbera in 1971 to work on Funky Phantom. Pay special attention to the other actor in this clip, as his voice will be very familiar to toonheads everywhere......



Ok. Have you figured it out yet? Answer coming.

Michael Bell is better known for his extensive cartoon resume, with credits ranging from Plastic Man and Super Friends to Smurfs and Rugrats. Bell & Dolenz would team again in 1974's Devlin for H-B & ABC. Bell has also done commercial voiceovers for Parkay margarine and Zales Jewelers over the years.

Back to The Monkees. The series would move to ABC for a year, around 1972, if memory serves, and its last Saturday stop was on MTV in 1986, when the channel was celebrating the band's 20th anniversary. Co-vocalist Davy Jones would guest star on The New Scooby-Doo Movies in 1972, and I'd not be surprised at all if it came out that H-B wanted the whole band, since Dolenz was already on the payroll. Unfortunately, by then, the Monkees were no more.

The series itself played as a normal sitcom, with the guys trying to make ends meet between gigs, and the fact that they sometimes ran afoul of some unsavory types might explain H-B's decision to utilize that concept with Josie & the Pussycats and the Harlem Globetrotters just a few short years later. The music, though, was the show's key selling point, and it holds up even today.

Rating: B+.

Celebrity Toons: The Gary Coleman Show (1982)

The Gary Coleman Show was spun off from a TV-movie Coleman (Diff'rent Strokes) made for NBC earlier in 1982, "The Kid With the Broken Halo". For the cartoon, Coleman reprises his role as Andy LeBeau, sent back to Earth to foil the mischief-making Hornswoggle (not to be confused with the WWE wrestler of the same name, who came along nearly 25 years later).

Unfortunately, this Hanna-Barbera entry lasted just 1 season, and was ultimately replaced by Alvin & the Chipmunks in the post-Smurfs slot on the NBC schedule. Joseluisqld uploaded the open to YouTube. I should note that the voiceover by announcer Casey Kasem, who did all the bumpers for NBC in those days, was deleted from post-network prints.



Rating: B.

From Primetime to Daytime: Jonny Quest (1964)

For a change, I'm going to post the video first, and let the swank theme music get you in the right mood. The video was uploaded by TonyBeazley to YouTube:



Jonny Quest was the last primetime series Hanna-Barbera would produce for ABC until 1990's Capital Critters. The one common link between the two shows is that neither one lasted beyond one season.

While The Flintstones was still going strong, entering its 5th season, H-B couldn't keep anything else on the air as a complement. Top Cat & The Jetsons each lasted one season as well, and, like Quest, would find new life in Saturday reruns.

Unlike those others, Jonny Quest was a straight-up adventure series, a precursor, if you will, to H-B's entry into the superhero sweepstakes. Jonny (Tim Matheson) traveled the world with his father, scientist Benton Quest, their dog, Bandit, and bodyguard Roger "Race" Bannon, a former government operative. The episode, "Calcutta Adventure", explains how Hadji came to join the Quest team. I'll see if I can get a complete, uncut version of that episode one of these days.

In an effort to fill time on their Saturday schedule, CBS acquired Quest a few years later, and the series would resurface on NBC in November 1978, when the network overhauled its lineup two months into the season due to ratings issues. Series creator Doug Wildey was back at Hanna-Barbera by that time, overseeing The Godzilla Power Hour, which expanded to 90 minutes, becoming Godzilla Super 90 with the addition of the Quest reruns.

In 1985, Jonny returned with all new adventures as part of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera syndicated anthology block, and that lasted about twice as long as the original series! Cartoon Network took a turn 11 years later with the daily Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, which added about 3-4 years to Jonny & Hadji, and added Race's daughter, Jessie, to the Quest team. Surprisingly, the writers couldn't find a way to link Jessie up with either of the boys to build a relationship.

But the original Quest can be best defined as a tough act to follow. None of the adventure series H-B would produce post-Quest could match it in artistic terms, and that's despite another noted artist, Alex Toth, being the designer for Space Ghost, Birdman, etc.. Currently, Boomerang has Quest airing nightly, but airing only the superior original series, which cycles through on a monthly basis. Hey, they won't listen to us mere mortals, otherwise they'd keep it weekly, the way it was originally, and the way it's meant to be.

Rating: A+.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: The Legion of Doom in a totally different light (1999-2000)

Sometime in the 1990's, before Cartoon Network got way, way off the track, some of their twisted geniuses decided to redub a scene from Challenge of the Super Friends featuring the Legion of Doom. This was one of the goofy ideas that helped pave the way for [adult swim] to debut in 2001:



All this says to me is that the staff at CN at the time had a really warped sense of humor. Apparently, they thought it would be funny if we thought Brainiac was tired of wearing briefs. Not even Allen Funt was this subtle.

Rating: D.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Krofftverse: Sigmund & the Sea Monsters (1973)

After Lidsville, their first series for ABC, was cancelled after 2 seasons, Sid & Marty Krofft returned to NBC in 1973 with Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, which may be partially inspired by Casper the Friendly Ghost. The common thread is that Sigmund (Billy Barty, ex-The Bugaloos), like Casper, wants to make friends, which makes him the black sheep of his family of sea monsters. Sigmund meets a pair of human boys, Johnny (Johnnie Whitaker, ex-Family Affair) & Scott (Scott Kolden), and befriends them, which leads to the predictable perils in every episode.

Funny thing about this episode. It's got a Halloween theme, but didn't air until December. Go figure!



The series was renewed for a 2nd season, with comic Rip Taylor added to the cast as a genie to add more chaos.

Danny Janssen, who composed music for Josie & the Pussycats, did the same here, and produced Whitaker's debut album, released during the first season.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Brown Hornet (1979)

Near the end of Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids' run on CBS, series creator & star Bill Cosby added a show-within-a-show, breathing life into the gang's comic book idol, The Brown Hornet. Cosby, of course, was the voice of the Hornet.

Each segment was prefaced with Albert and the gang gathering in the clubhouse to watch the show. Co-producer Lou Scheimer is the narrator, and you'll find a familiar name in the credits. Paul Dini was one of the writers, in one of his first jobs for Filmation. Dini would later work on He-Man before achieving icon status writing and producing Batman: The Animated Series in the 90's.

Following is a sample episode:



Bear in mind that the Hornet debuted in 1979, the same year that Ruby-Spears introduced Rickety Rocket, with its all-African-American cast, as part of the 2-hour Plastic Man show on ABC. Obviously, the Hornet had more staying power, as he stuck around until Fat Albert left CBS in 1984.

Rating: A-.

Teenage Toons: Teen Wolf (1986)

Teen Wolf was part of the freshman class of CBS' 1986 Saturday lineup, along with Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Based on the Michael J. Fox movie from the previous year, the cartoon tweaks the story just a bit, as the title wolf, one Scott Howard (voiced by Townsend Coleman), only confides in two close friends, and deals with the usual teen issues, particularly finding that the girl of his dreams belongs to someone else, who just happens to be fond of bullying Scott around.

Teenwolfcartoon (what a shock) uploaded the first part of the series' opener, "Teen Wolf's Family Secret", to YouTube:



Rating: None. I didn't watch the show, so I can't rate it.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Teamo Supremo (2002)

The popularity of Cartoon Network's Powerpuff Girls inevitably would spawn imitators, but there was only one. Disney trotted out Teamo Supremo as a mid-season replacement on ABC in January 2002. There are some differences:

1. Teamo Supremo is made up of 2 boys & 1 girl. Rope Girl has a cowgirl gimmick. Skate Lad is a Latino skateboarder with braces. Capt. Crandall, the team leader, is a walking homage to James Thurber's daydreamer, Walter Mitty.

2. Teamo Supremo answers to a higher authority than the Powerpuffs. Higher as in, a hipster Governor (Martin Mull). Next to him, the Mayor of Townsville is even more of a square.

3. Teamo Supremo may actually have gotten past kindergarten. I would guess that these kids are at least in the first grade.

The series spent parts of two seasons on ABC, but lately, it languishes in Disney's vaults, as it doesn't even see the light of day on boy-centric DisneyXD. Here's the open, in case you forgot this show even exists:



In terms of kindred spirits, I'd say the series owes some inspiration to the live-action Batman, what with the campy villains and over-the-top plotting. Unlike Batman or the Powerpuffs, though, the TS kids had more disposable villains to deal with, which in hindsight might've been a turn-off, leading to its demise.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sunday Funnies: 2 Stupid Dogs (1993)

By 1993, Hanna-Barbera was now a unit of Turner Entertainment. At the same time, their Sunday anthology series, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, had drawn to a close. Oh, there was still a block to fill, but the Funtastic World title had, for all intents & purposes, been retired.

For the 1993-94 season, H-B's 90 minute Sunday block consisted of The New Adventures of Captain Planet, with the eco-superhero moving over from DIC, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, & 2 Stupid Dogs.

2 Stupid Dogs wasn't exactly a canine equivalent or knockoff of MTV's immensely popular at the time Beavis & Butt-Head, who had gotten their own series a few months earlier. The only thing the characters had in common between the two series was a lack of intellect. At least Beavis & Butt-Head held down part-time jobs. The dogs, a dacschund & a sheepdog, simply meandered through one misadventure after another with little understanding of their surroundings. Take, for example, this episode, "At the Drive-In":



The little dog's reaction to the talking condiments might be similar to that of a small child, say around 2-4 years of age, unaccustomed to the world around him. I'm not entirely sure if that was what series creator Donovan Cook was angling for, but it must've worked, since the dogs stuck around for 2 seasons.

The linework was more of a throwback to Hanna-Barbera's earliest works in the late 50's, when they first transitioned to television. Some of the humor, however, may have been aimed at teens & young adults, and not younger children.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saturday School: One to Grow On (1983)

In answer to CBS' long-running In the News, NBC began a series of PSA's featuring stars from several of their prime-time series in 1983. One to Grow On aired several times every Saturday morning from 1983-89, before the network decided to replace it with something similar.

Stagermonkey uploaded this example, featuring Joel Higgins (Silver Spoons), to YouTube:



Other stars included The A-Team's Dwight Schultz & Mr. T, the latter of whom also had his own cartoon at the time, Rene Enriquez (Hill Street Blues), Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster), David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider), & Michael J. Fox (Family Ties). Today, NBC could revive the concept and mix it with its current Qubo package, but it isn't, and that's a shame. Today's kids could learn the same lessons.

Rating: A.

Saturtainment: 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)

By 1985, ABC's cornerstone Saturday franchises were showing their age.

Super Friends was ending its run under the title, Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, becoming an infomercial, if you will, for Kenner's Super Powers line of action figures. American Bandstand, anchoring the bottom of the lineup, was nearing its end, too, and would hang on for another couple of years.

As for Scooby-Doo, however, Hanna-Barbera decided to try to cash in on the success of the feature film, "Ghostbusters", from the previous year, by having Scooby and a revamped team chasing real ghosts.

The real lure of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, though, was horror legend Vincent Price, joining the cast as Vincent Van Ghoul, a sorcerer of some repute (rebooted as a TV horror host in the current Mystery, Incorporated series) and guardian to a street urchin named Flim Flam, who joins Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, & Daphne in retrieving the ghosts that Scooby accidentally loosed from the chest of demons. The show's open, narrated by Price, explains everything:



Vincent Price, of course, was hot with the kids after contributing a spoken word "rap" to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" a couple of years earlier, and pairing him with another icon in Scooby would add some more cred, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, no, it wouldn't. 13 Ghosts was cancelled halfway through its only season due to declining ratings. ABC had to accept the fact that Scooby had lost his charm after 10 years with the network. Ironically, a cartoon based on the "Ghostbusters" would replace Scooby the very next year and begin a successful 5 year run of its own.

What hurt 13 Ghosts were the absence of Fred & Velma, save for guest appearances, and a change in Daphne's wardrobe. Daph swapped her green & purple dress and purple (sometimes pink) hose for a purple jumpsuit. All she needed was a proton pack to complete a neo-Ghostbuster ensemble, but then there would've been lawsuits. Most fans, if you go by certain message boards, weren't quite so fond of Flim Flam, either.

Rating: C.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp (1970)

Originally published in my other blog, The Land of Whatever, on August 22, 2010:
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The spy craze of the 60's was nearing its end. The satirical Get Smart and the dramatic It Takes a Thief were entering their final seasons in 1970. Mission: Impossible would roll on for a few more years, of course, but now there was a spy satire tailored for the whole family.

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was an amalgam of music, blackout skits (a la Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), and adventure when ABC made it the centerpiece of its 1970-71 Saturday morning lineup. Originally a 1-hour show, Link also had room for some Warner Bros. animated shorts that didn't quite fit in with the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour over on CBS. Those cartoons were eliminated when Link was trimmed to a half-hour for its 2nd and final season the next year.

Lancelot Link, a Humphrey Bogart soundalike (voiced by Dayton Allen), was a top agent for APE, a simian analog for Smart's CONTROL, but Link was no Maxwell Smart by any means. CHUMP, the analog for KAOS, had one glaring problem. Too many chiefs running the show, in particular, Baron Von Butcher (Bernie Kopell, using his Conrad Siegfried voice from Smart), whose schemes always fell apart. Link was also the lead singer for the simian rock group, the Evolution Revolution (music producer Steve Hoffman, who'd worked with the Grass Roots, among others, provided Link's singing voice and sang the show's theme song), featured in one segment each week, introduced by an Ed Sullivan parody, Ed Simian (Dayton Allen again). Malachi Throne left Thief after 2 seasons to serve as narrator for the Link episodes.

Lancelot Link enjoyed a brief revival a few years back when Nickelodeon acquired the rights to the series, albeit in its 30-minute form, and it was last seen on TV Land back in 1999 when that network experimented with a block paying homage to the Saturday classics of the past, specifically the 70's. No one's really sure what happened to the chimps used on the show after production ended, but TBS tried to recapture the spirit of the series with 2003's prime time entry, The Chimp Channel, a short-lived sitcom that satirized the television industry. Channel was tuned out, unfortunately, after a handful of episodes, never to be seen again.

Could Lancelot Link live again? Only if Lance, Mata Hairi, Baron Von Butcher, and the rest are in CGI form. Hollywood seems to have turned its back on concepts like Link after Chimp Channel failed.

Rating: A-.

Here's the open that everyone remembers:

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Inch High, Private Eye (1973)

Inch High, Private Eye was one of two freshman series Hanna-Barbera sold to NBC in 1973 (Butch Cassidy was the other), part of a revamped lineup built around the animated revival of Star Trek.

Some sources have tried to explain Inch's origin, claiming he was originally meant to be a normal sized sleuth who could shrink down to an inch tall and back to normal size, but as we would see, Inch (Len Weinrib) was permanently at Tom Thumb-size and a on-again, off-again operative for the Finkerton Detective Agency (a play on Pinkerton, of course). Aided by his normal-sized niece, Glory, chauffeur-bodyguard Gator, and faithful St. Bernard, Braveheart, Inch bumbled his way into solving case after case, but viewers tuned him out, and the series was cancelled after 1 season, although it would make its way into syndication a few years later.

Here's the intro:




Much like George Jetson a decade earlier, Inch would be fired and rehired periodically by his boss, a running gag that got old rather quickly. Would Warner Bros. revisit this concept today? Considering how many of H-B's characters of the past have been run through the wringer by the jesters of [adult swim] for no other reason than to tick off old-school fans, it'd require a knockout script, including a detailed origin, to bring Inch back. Don't hold your breath, though.

Rating: B.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The hero who might've been........

Filmation didn't have very many original creations over the course of its nearly 25 year existence. Most of their series were derived from licensed properties, including Aquaman, Star Trek, He-Man, & Tarzan.

However, a long lost pilot has surfaced that suggests that the studio did have an original concept that could've been sold to the networks, circa 1967 or so, and fit right in with the action-adventure series dominating the schedules in those days.

I first ran across Dick Digit whilst visiting Jon's Random Acts of Geekery a few weeks back. A lone survivor of a lost planet is chased to Earth by the same invaders who'd destroyed his world. The Jester is a shape-shifting circus star who befriends the newcomer. Filmation honcho Lou Scheimer is heard as the public address announcer at the circus, and, at the very end, house narrator Ted Knight closes things out.

As you'll see, Dick Digit was originally the Jester's puppet sidekick, but he christens his new friend with the name. The humanoid Dick sounds like the voice may be Pat Harrington, who signed on with Filmation in 1967 and worked on Journey to the Center of the Earth for ABC and was the voice of The Atom (Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure).

Classic Media now controls the majority of the Filmation library, but I am not certain if they even have the rights to Digit. Anyway, CapnChaos uploaded the pilot to YouTube:



Rating: A.

You Know the Voice: Two legends cross over

As we know, Mel Blanc was a member of Jack Benny's repertory company, both on radio and on television. At the peak of the TV version of The Jack Benny Program, Benny was persuaded to step into Blanc's world, if you will, and star in an animated cartoon.

"The Mouse That Jack Built", released in 1959, features Benny and most of his troupe, particularly Blanc, Mary Livingston, Don Wilson, & Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. As you'll see, the real Benny appears at the end of the story, and he appears to have dreamt the entire tale, but for a slight twist.....! Uploaded by hyrail73:



This has aired on syndicated Looney Tunes compilations, but I'm not sure if it turned up on network television.

Of course, being that it's Cinco de Mayo, I couldn't let this next offering pass. From an episode of The Jack Benny Program, here's Mel Blanc as a Mexican tourist in a variation on a routine that Mel & Jack did on radio. Uploaded by TVRewind:



"The Mouse that Jack Built" merits an A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Spider-Woman (1979)

Originally published in my other blog, The Land of Whatever, on August 17, 2010.
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The cover blurb on her comic book read, "To know her is to fear her", but when Spider-Woman made the transition to television in 1979, there really wasn't anything fearsome about her. Instead of being a product of the High Evolutionary, or so Marvel wanted us to believe back in the day, Spider-Woman, in her civilian guise of Jessica Drew, was posited as the publisher of an investigative magazine. In other words, DePatie-Freleng decided that she was to be a cross between Spider-Man......and the Green Hornet. Go figure.

DePatie-Freleng was nearing its end. The studio had sold its first series to ABC 4 years earlier (The Oddball Couple), then they moved the popular Pink Panther franchise over from NBC in 1978, ending a 9 year run on the latter network. NBC, in turn, picked up DFE's remake of The Fantastic Four, which unfortunately fell victim to affiliate disinterest and was cancelled after one season. I know this for certain because the NBC affiliate in my market refused to air the show. Luckily, in those days, my cable provider had a 2nd NBC affiliate, albeit from Utica, handy for such cases. Spider-Woman, then, would be the last series to bear the DFE logo, as it transitioned to Marvel Productions 2 years later. ABC's previous association with DFE, by the way, was a series of specials for the Afterschool Special anthology series, which in turn spun off Time For Timer to use with the Saturday lineup. I digress.

On TV, Spider-Woman (Joan Van Ark, later of Knots Landing) fought the usual collection of SatAM villains, including Dracula. I guess Bram Stoker's vampire was in the public domain at the time, since a variation on the same character fought the Super Friends a year earlier. Unfortunately, with Super Friends and Plastic Man airing in the same lineup, ABC was risking giving viewers a bad case of superhero burnout. Spider-Woman was coupled with Scooby & Scrappy-Doo in the 11-12 (ET) block, as memory serves, but it just didn't last very long.

With Marvel now a part of Disney, would a revival of Spider-Woman for TV, given all the changes made with the character in the comics in the 31 years since, be possible? Only the suits at the two companies know for sure, but it certainly would be welcome.

Updated, 5/5/11: Here's the open, uploaded by palitoy:



Grade: B.

Cinco de Mayo: Speedy Gonzales in "Mexican Cat Dance" (1962)

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we present "the fastest mouse in all Mexico", Speedy Gonzales, in one of his best, "Mexican Cat Dance".

While the humans are enjoying a mid-day siesta, the mice take over the bullfight arena, and Speedy plays matador to Sylvester in a variation on the old cat & mouse game. Oh, what fun!



If this aired on NBC's Daffy/Speedy Show, back in 1980, or even earlier, on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, it was probably heavily edited. I'm only too happy to find the original uncut short to share with you.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Ricochet Rabbit (1964)

Before Hanna-Barbera dived head-long into superhero adventure in the mid-60's, they'd already introduced a couple of funny animal heroes. Touche Turtle was one part of the syndicated New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Show in 1962, and two years later, Ricochet Rabbit blazed a six-gun trail in the Old West as part of the Magilla Gorilla show.

Rabbits are naturally fast animals. As a sheriff in an unnamed town, Ricochet wasn't just quick on the draw, he was quick, period. Blessed with super-speed, Ricochet would be on the phone with his deputy, Droop-a-Long Coyote (Mel Blanc), one second, and be on the scene in the blink of an eye. Droop could only dream of being able to keep up with his boss.

As if being a superpowered lawman wasn't enough, Ricochet also carried some trick bullets in his gun. Kind of like the various trick arrows employed by the comic book hero Green Arrow. Being on a comedy show, it is accepted that Droop was the stereotypical comedy relief, but somehow H-B missed the boat by not spinning Ricochet & Droop off into their own series. Instead, they were shifted over to Peter Potamus after the first season, and when that series ended, that was it for our heroes as well.

Following is the episode, "Slick Quick Gun":



Rating: A.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Celebrity Toons: Camp Candy (1989)

SCTV icon John Candy, who had made a successful transition to movies with hits like "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles" (w/Steve Martin) & "The Great Outdoors" (w/Dan Aykroyd), followed his SCTV castmate Martin Short (The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley) into cartoons with 1989's Camp Candy. Unlike Short or Rick Moranis, whose Gravedale High bowed the following year, Candy didn't link up with Hanna-Barbera. Instead, he chose to work with DIC & Saban. The two studios had previously collaborated on Kidd Video and the game show, I'm Telling!, which, like the SCTV spin-offs, aired on NBC.

Inspired, perhaps, by his experience working on "Great Outdoors", Candy cast himself as the owner-operator of a summer camp, purportedly before he hit it big in show business, hence narrating the stories himself. In addition to shepherding a group of youngsters, Candy had to protect the property from a greedy rival, Rex DeForest, who wanted the land for a condo.

Camp Candy lasted two seasons on NBC, but after a year off, was revived in 1992 with new episodes produced for syndication. TVSets1977 uploaded this sample of the episode, "Bird is the Word". The show's theme song, sung by Candy, was written by pop legend Harry Nilssen.



Rating: B.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Mr. Telephone Man (1984)

In the mid-80's, the emergence of vocal groups such as New Edition led to something called "New Jack Swing" as a sub-genre of rhythm & blues (R & B). New Edition was the launchpad for future solo stars like Bobby Brown & Ralph Tresvant, and spun off the trio Bell-Biv-DeVoe in 1990.

NOLAsoulchild uploaded this performance clip from a 1984 episode of American Bandstand, which also includes a second track and the obligatory interview with host Dick Clark, who is seen at the start chatting with some of the audience.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Daytime Heroes: Deputy Dawg (1960)

Terrytoons' Deputy Dawg first appeared in syndication in 1960 (Wikipedia claims it was 2 years later), and enjoyed a pretty healthy run, even though production ended in 1963.

The Deputy patrolled the bayou country somewhere in Mississippi (it was never stated exactly where), answering to a human Sheriff while keeping Vincent Van Gopher, Muskie Muskrat, Pig Newton, and the rest of the gang out of mischief. Occasionally, Deputy Dawg would be seen fishing for catfish with those same "varmints" he often had to apprehend for raiding hen houses and such.

Comic Dayton Allen provided most of the voices (Don Markstein's Toonopedia page credits Lionel Wilson with doing some incidental characters), as demonstrated in the episode, "Heat Wave", uploaded by Dwighttfrye to YouTube:



Deputy Dawg was picked up by NBC in 1971, presumably as a mid-season replacement, then went right back into syndication, which is where I first discovered him in the mid-70's, when the reruns aired on WSBK in Boston. The above clip was taken off a broadcast of the USA Cartoon Express. That cable run in the 80's proved to be the last hurrah for the Deputy, as he hasn't been seen since, likely because of perceptions of political incorrectness.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: Dayton Allen (1960)

You might not be too familiar with him, save for the characters he's brought to life on Saturdays in the 60's & 70's, such as Heckle & Jeckle, Deputy Dawg, and, finally, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Your parents, though, may have heard of comedian-impressionist Dayton Allen, who gave voice to the above-mentioned characters and a few more. Allen tried to develop a live-action series of his own by himself in 1960, but it went unsold. Dean358 uploaded this sample to YouTube: