Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: Top Cat (1961)

As The Flintstones was inspired by Jackie Gleason's seminal The Honeymooners, Hanna-Barbera's next primetime entry for ABC, Top Cat, drew its inspiration more from Phil Silvers' You'll Never Get Rich, aka The Phil Silvers Show or, as most people are wont to refer to it, Sgt. Bilko.

Indeed, Top Cat (Arnold Stang, doing a voice similar to Silvers) was every bit the schemer that Ernie Bilko was, only he had more room to operate, as he was based in the alleys of New York City. He was quick to take credit for ideas generated by any one of his aides: Benny the Ball (Maurice Gosfield, one of Silvers' co-stars), Brain, Spook, Fancy-Fancy, or Choo-Choo (Marvin Kaplan, later of Alice), but just as quick to stay a step or three ahead of Officer Charlie Dibble, the beat patrolman who was always trying to clear Top Cat and his crew out of the alley, but ended up having to rely on their help, or vice versa, when things got a little too sticky.

Top Cat was cancelled after 1 season, but was picked up for reruns by NBC a few years later, which is where I first came across the series. Ol' TC would later resurface on Yogi's Treasure Hunt in the 80's, as he was the one sending Yogi Bear and his crew on missions. The gang would reunite for a TV-movie, "Top Cat & the Beverly Hills Cats", in 1987, but that would be the last time they would be together.

Here's the open to Top Cat, uploaded by cikitian to YouTube:

The series airs periodically on Boomerang, which cycles through the 30 episodes within a month. Could TC make a comeback for his 50th anniversary? Maybe, but you'd need a more enterprising mind than what's in charge of Boomerang & Cartoon Network these days to make it happen.

Rating: B-.

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