Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rein-toon-ation: US of Archie (1974)

The US of Archie was the last series to feature Archie Andrews and his Riverdale buds on CBS, and, as with 1971's Archie's TV Funnies, tweaked the traditional format of the Archie series.

The core premise of this series was the gang discovered that their ancestors (who happened to be amazing lookalikes to the present day gang) played "intregal roles" in shaping different pieces of American history. New songs were written for the show, but there was a different singer fronting the band. Tom McKenzie, formerly of the Doodletown Pipers, a 60's folk group, took over for Ron Dante as the singing voice of Archie (otherwise played by Dallas McKennon). Since no musical numbers had been needed the previous three seasons, Dante and writing partner Andy Kim moved on to bigger things. Kim, in particular, enjoyed some chart success with 1973's "Rock Me Gently". You're forgiven if you've previously mistaken him for Neil Diamond after listening to the song the first time. Dante, as I've documented previously, acheived his biggest success as a producer and writing partner with Barry Manilow.

Unfortunately, as of now there are no full episodes, not even the opening titles, available to YouTube. Pterixa offers this music video, taken from the series finale, "The Wizard of Menlo Park", about Thomas Edison:

I wish I could identify the song, but there is no record of any song listing from this season. The US of Archie would cycle through one season's worth of episodes over two, and when it ended in 1976, it was also the end of Archie's 8 year run at CBS.

All was not lost, though. ABC took a chance on a live-action pilot that I remember seeing in '76, produced by James Komack (Welcome Back, Kotter, Chico & the Man), but burned it off in the summer of '76. Archie would return once more, this time on NBC, in 1977. Unfortunately, given Filmation's poor track record at NBC, The Archie-Sabrina Hour didn't last very long, and splitting the hour into separate half-hour components, Super Witch for Sabrina, and The Bang Shang Lallapalooza Show for Archie, did nothing but postpone the inevitable. Both series were cancelled in April 1978, steamrolled by ABC's dominant lineup.

Rating: A-. The US of Archie may be airing on Retro this summer, so check your listings!


Hinnis said...

It was not Tom Wilkinson, but Tom McKenzie who sang the songs for the U.S. of Archie series. I should know, because that's me :) I was introduced to Jackie Mills (the music producer for the show) by my then-manager, Ward Ellis, who was one of the owners of the Doodletown Pipers (of which I was a member).

hobbyfan said...

I get the name mixed up sometimes. Thanks.