Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bad TV: Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch (1974)

Legendary animator Tex Avery first came up with the idea of giving cars sentience, that is, the ability to behave like you and me. In 1974, Hanna-Barbera, looking for a hit series for NBC, thought they had one with Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch. Wheelie got the requisite comic book adaptation (from Charlton), and board game (Milton Bradley), and maybe a lunch box, but that was about it.

Wheelie was a car who was unique in that he didn't talk, while the other sentient vehicles on the show did, including his girlfriend (whose voice was that of actress Judy Strangis). Frank Welker was the voice behind Chopper, and also provided the sound effects for Wheelie.

Here's a sample episode:

I've looked at a couple of syndicated reruns over the years, and, well, the concept reeked of desperation. H-B had 4 series bomb out on NBC in the previous two seasons, and this would make it 5 in 3. Could they try this again, in the wake of Pixar & Disney's "Cars" (and its upcoming sequel)? No, I don't think so. A friend and I have postulated the idea on a message board of rebooting the series with human characters and an extreme sports theme. It'd certainly make more sense than trying to remake the original, whose hero was incapable of human speech.

Rating: D.

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