Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Literary Toons: The World of David The Gnome (1985)

In the 80's, Nickelodeon imported a number of series from other countries, mostly Japan, but also from Spain, as evidenced by The World of David The Gnome.

Only 26 episodes were made of the series, but Nick, demonstrating the poor programming strategem that continues to this day, ran the show weekdays, meaning that all 26 episodes could be cycled through in just 5 weeks.

The series was based on a Dutch children's book, and the English dubbing was done by Cinar (now part of Cookie Jar Entertainment). The producers hired actor Christopher Plummer to narrate some stories, and signed on Tom Bosley, fresh from Happy Days, to voice David.

The Weinstein Company recently obtained the rights to the series and remastered the original tapes. Following is the episode, "The Shadowless Stone":

Where Nick made its mistake was the 5-day-a-week schedule. Had it aired on weekends, the episodes wouldn't have been burned out so quickly. Then again, it was one season and done, after all.

Rating: B-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Super Chicken in One of Our States is Missing (1967)

Time for another Super Chicken adventure.

This time, the Poultry Powerhouse is looking for a missing..........state. An old classmate of Henry Cabot Henhouse III has decided to steal his home state of Rhode Island for ransom. I've heard of nutty ideas, but this takes the cake.

If you can find the humor in this exercise, give yourself a gold star.

Rating: C.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Teen Force (1981)

I've been waiting to do this one for a long time.

Teen Force was part of NBC's 1981-2 series, Space Stars, and while they got the rub from working with Space Ghost & The Herculoids in some crossover episodes, they've been lost in the mists of time since the series was cancelled.

Just who made up the Teen Force, anyway?

Electra was a telepath, and of the three core members made the most crossovers with Space Ghost and his wards. The writers tried to at least tease a relationship between Electra and Jace, but that went nowhere. On the other hand, Kid Comet was dating Jace's twin sister, Jan. Moleculad, then, was the odd man out in terms of relationships.

As their names imply, Comet & Moleculad also had specific powers. Comet often transformed into a literal comet when he accelerated, and Moleculad, well, I think you could figure it out as you watch the episode, "Death Ray":

Let us not forget the Astromites, the twin dwarves who spoke entirely in gibberish. If I'm not mistaken, that gibberish was done by one man-----Michael Winslow, better known for his later work in the "Police Academy" movies. Small wonder, then, that Winslow was billed as the human sound effect machine.

Ugglor, the villain, was a sort-of analogue for Jack Kirby's seminal Darkseid, who would make his TV debut just 3 years later, but, unfortunately, he was about as scary as a dead lizard. Yeah, that bad.

For some reason, these cartoons have been ignored by Cartoon Network & Boomerang in recent years, locked away in WB's vaults. Their loss, as usual.

Rating: B.

From Comics to Toons: The Boondocks (2005)

It is, without question, [adult swim]'s answer to South Park. It is controversial by design---but better animated than most of [as]' roster.

Aaron McGruder created The Boondocks while in college, and after the strip appeared in a college newspaper, then the now-defunct The Source, a nationally published hip-hop magazine, McGruder put the series in newspapers. In 2005, he transitioned to television, landing the adventures of Huey & Riley Freeman and their grandfather, Robert, on [adult swim]. Tonight, after a lengthy hiatus, the series begins its final season.

McGruder, however, is no longer associated with the cartoon. He's working on a new project for [as], which should be ready to go, probably before the end of the year.

The Boondocks has always been built around Huey & Riley (both voiced by actress Regina King), serving as avatars for McGruder's viewpoints on society in general, especially as it relates to African Americans. John Witherspoon (ex-The Wayans Brothers) voices Grandpa Robert. I'd like to post an episode here, but because of language and other concerns, we'll settle for the intro:

While filmmaker-turned-network executive Reginald Hudlin was credited as an executive producer, he actually left the show before it hit the air to take the President's job at BET. Go figure.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Game Time: Yu-Gi-Oh (1998)

Around the time that Pokemon was making an inroad here in the US, another Japanese series was wrapping up its first run, but would follow Pokemon to the US in due course.

Yu-Gi-Oh made its American debut on Kids' WB! in 2001, and, like Pokemon, was imported by 4Kids Entertainment to the US. The series became a mainstay of WB/CW's Saturday lineup for a number of years, but has bounced around of late. Currently, rights are split between the CW, which has it back as part of the Vortexx block, and Nicktoons, which has the earlier series. The current incarnation, Yu-Gi-Oh Zezal, is airing on CW.

When the series arrived in America, 4Kids began not with the 1998 series that launched the franchise, but rather with the 2000 relaunch, otherwise known in its native Japan as Duel Monsters. Don't ask. It could be that 4Kids couldn't get the rights to the 1998 series. Like Pokemon and other imports, there have been succeeding series to continue the franchise.

From Hulu comes the Duel Monsters opener, which, as noted, made its US debut in 2001.

 I don't play collectible card games, including the one inspired by this show. I've found myself bored watching Yu-Gi-Oh, maybe because it's just too talky for my taste.

Rating: C.

Rare Treats: Fol-De-Rol (1972)

I've been dying to do this next item for what seems like forever.

Sid & Marty Krofft's 2nd project for ABC, after Lidsville, was Fol-De-Rol, a primetime special that aired in February 1972. I will admit that in watching the video, it was the first time I'd actually seen some footage. As a 9 year old back then, I'd gone to bed that night, had trouble sleeping, and could hear the television in another part of the house, so my folks had this on for a bit, looking for something. I know this because I distinctly remember hearing the voice of no less than Howard Cosell during the show, and hearing part of the theme song.

Anyway, the show, noted by Vinnie Rattolle as an unsold pilot, is set at a Medevial fair, and the segments are such that a number of actors, including Mickey Rooney and Billy Barty, are playing multiple parts. Rick Nelson plays a wandering minstrel. Ann Sothern is the Queen, and you have an ensemble doing a variation on Three Dog Night's hit, "Joy To The World", with new lyrics written for the show. Len Weinrib & Joan Gerber provide the voices for the puppets and other characters. Seeing Mickey Rooney as an executioner having issues with his son is hilarious all by itself.

Anyway, the Krofft logo was not included on the print, but I've got one burning question. What in the hizell is the "Krofft Look"?

Apparently, viewers seemed to agree with network suits that the Kroffts were a wee bit out of their depth with this one, but it would be 4 years before they'd try a variety show-style format again......!

Rating: B-.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Looney TV: Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement (1980)

Daffy Duck was starring in his own Saturday morning series on NBC in 1980, but I am not so sure the "Peacock Network" landed his Easter special, which was perhaps the last cartoon issued by DePatie-Freleng, in conjunction of course with Warner Bros., before being bought out by Marvel.

Daffy is joined by Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester, and Speedy Gonzales, among others, in this primetime treat. In the fall, Speedy would earn co-star status when Daffy's NBC series was renewed for a 2nd season.......

Unfortunately, Daffy is in his selfish-greedy mode from the 50's & 60's. It'd be a long time before he'd be his old manic self. The framing sequences were borrowed from "Duck Amuck", as if you didn't know, but unlike that classic short, the artist's identity isn't revealed. Hmmmm. Maybe this was on NBC after all. Had it been on CBS, don't ya think Bugs would've been wielding the brush again?

Rating: C.