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:

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