Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saturtainment: Krofft Supershow (1976)

Sid & Marty Krofft made an inroad into variety shows when they were tapped to produce Donny & Marie upon its launch as a mid-season replacement in January 1976. 8 months later, the Kroffts unveiled The Krofft Supershow, an anthology series that mixed together comedy & music segments from the house band/hosts, Kaptain Kool & the Kongs with 3 featured series.

The segment most fans remember is Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, a distaff knock-off of Batman, complete with cliffhanger endings and the occasional diagonal camera angle. Diedre Hall (Days of Our Lives) & Judy Strangis were the title heroines. Here's the open, uploaded by spottymax to YouTube:

The fan following for Electra Woman was such that the Kroffts actually mounted a prime time pilot in 2001 to mark the series' 25th anniversary, with Markie Post (ex-Night Court) as Electra Woman. The pilot never made it to air.

Wonderbug was the only regular feature, aside from the band, to appear on both seasons of the Supershow. It was cheesier than anything else on the show, as the usual cheap production values were more obvious here. It also inspired a semi-knockoff the following year, when Hanna-Barbera served up the animated Wonder Wheels, about a dilapadated scooter that turns into a souped up motorcycle, as part of the Skatebirds. Wonderbug came to life with the aid of a magic horn. Go figure.

Here's the intro:

Dr. Shrinker was loosely based on a 40's horror movie, "Dr. Cyclops". In this case, Shrinker (Jay Robinson, "Train Ride to Hollywood") had plans to sell off his "Shrinkees" to a foreign power. Billy Barty (Sigmund & the Sea Monsters), Jeff MacKay (ex-Black Sheep Squadron) and Ted Eccles (better known for his voice work on The Herculoids and Three Musketeers) co-starred. Here's "Pardon Me, King Kong".

After the first season, Dr. Shrinker and Electra Woman were cancelled, and replaced with two new segments, Bigfoot & Wildboy (previously reviewed) & Magic Mongo. Mongo featured veteran voice actor-producer Len Weinrib in a rare (by that time) live-action role, as a bumbling male genie now under the charge of a group of teenagers. Unfortunately, I don't have a clip to post here. There are some tied to the series' theme for season 2, but embedding's been disabled.

As for Kaptain Kool & the Kongs, they had some ties to my home district. Singer-songwriter Bert Sommer, from Albany, was cast as "Flatbush", but left the series after the 1st season. Drummer Mickey McMeel (Turkey) & vocalist Debra Clinger (Super Chick) were the only other true musicians in the group. McMeel had previously played & toured with Three Dog Night. Clinger had been in a folk vocal group, the Clinger Sisters, who had made the rounds in the 60's, including the infamous Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In that respect, the Kongs had something in common with the most famous pre-fab band of the 60's, the Monkees. Here's a clip of the band, minus Sommer, from The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1977), performing "Names".

The band was split up, seemingly for good, we thought, after Supershow was cancelled. Nashville (impressionist Louise DuArt, who later hosted the game show Rodeo Drive for cable's Lifetime) and Turkey went on to NBC's Krofft Superstar Hour, and would be joined by the others periodically. Those that claim that this was really the Supershow under a new title have to be mistaken. Debra Clinger (Super Chick) went to primetime, starring in the short lived CBS series, The American Girls, and hasn't been heard from much since. Michael Lembeck (Kaptain Kool) also moved to primetime, landing a gig on another, more successful CBS show, One Day at a Time, before turning to directing. However, the band would reform to appear for a few episodes before the NBC series was abruptly retooled to put more focus on the show's hosts, the Bay City Rollers. For all we know, Mickey McMeel may still be playing in a band somewhere. The Krofft Supershow was the next-to-last Saturday morning series the Kroffts would produce for ABC until a revival of Land of the Lost in 1991. As noted previously, Bigfoot & Wildboy was spun off from Supershow during the 1978-79 season. It was fun while it lasted.

Rating: B.

Updated, 11/17/11, with more information.


HFM said...

Wonderbug's John Anthony Bailey was also featured in a noted episode of "Happy Days" . . . but he went on to a long and infamous career in porn, as the clownish 'Jack Baker', before dying about fifteen years ago. A sad end and a waste of talent.

hobbyfan said...

I knew about Bailey appearing on Happy Days, which I think led to his casting in Wonderbug, IIRC. I also read somewhere about his descent, if you will, into porn. Ya, a sad end.