Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: Bewitched (1964)

ABC apparently was a wee bit short on new programming for their Saturday morning lineup in 1971. Oh, sure, there were three new series: Lidsville, Curiosity Shop, & The Jackson 5ive (all previously reviewed), and the network reacquired Jonny Quest to help fill the lunch-hour bridge to American Bandstand. In what amounted to a noble experiment, the network decided to air repeats of one of their primetime shows, Bewitched, which was entering its 8th and final season, in the center of the schedule. The experiment lasted a year, and then, after the series was cancelled, if memory serves, Bewitched was shifted to weekday mornings.

Everyone knows the story about a good natured witch (Elizabeth Montgomery) and her mortal husband (Dick York, later succeeded by Dick Sargent). By the time Bewitched was slotted on Saturdays, Samantha & Darrin had added two children, Tabitha & Adam, who would later spin off into a 1-shot ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, "Tabitha & Adam & the Clown Family". Tabitha, of course, would get her own primetime show four years after Bewitched ended, but the magic, dare I say it, had worn off.

Attached is the open to season 3:



ABC would try a similar experiment a few years later, but it would only be a 1-shot to fill time when there was a delay with the 1979-80 season's start.

Rating: B-.

Tooniversary: Clue Club (1976)

After 8 seasons, Scooby-Doo & the kids of Mystery, Incorporated packed their Mystery Machine and left CBS for ABC in 1976. Scooby would last 10 years at ABC before finally getting a vacation. Meanwhile, Hanna-Barbera filled the void at CBS by tweaking the formula just a wee bit.

Unlike Mystery, Incorporated, the teens of the Clue Club remained in one unnamed city for the entire duration of their series. Further, the two boys & two girls (Larry, DD, Dottie, & Pepper) were all siblings, and had not one, but two dogs, Woofer & Whimper (voiced by Paul Winchell & Jim McGeorge, respectively), which provided the necessary comedy relief. Dottie, the youngest, was also a child prodigy and remained in the family garage, which the Club used as their HQ. Their parents were never seen, and the only parental figure that ever interacted with the kids was Sheriff Bagley (John Stephenson), who was to them what Commissioner Gordon has been to the Batman for eons, a trusted ally.

Unlike Scooby-Doo, Clue Club, which launched in August of 1976 for reasons we'll get to later, put more emphasis on procedural detective work, as Larry, Pepper, & DD not only hunted for clues, but interviewed potential suspects in the same manner the sheriff would. Larry (David Joliffe) did most of the interviewing, as the eldest of the 4 sibs, but it was Dottie that put all the pieces together. Unfortunately, only 1 season of 16 episodes was produced. As we've documented before, the episodes were edited down the next year to emphasize Woofer & Whimper, Dog Detectives as part of the Skatebirds anthology series. The series was restored and returned to the schedule in 1978 for another run of repeats. It currently is in rotation on Boomerang as part of the Those Meddling Kids anthology block.

Clue Club's early bird launch in 1976 was because, in this writer's view, CBS felt they had a huge hit, and wanted to showcase it before the US Open tennis tournament, which would tie up the network's Saturday morning block for 2 weekends every year (and still does).

Here's the open:



This is what a detective cartoon is supposed to look like. Unfortunately, the formula's been lost at WB.....

Rating: A.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Looney TV: Would you buy insurance from this guy? (2010)

In 2010, GEICO launched its current "Isn't it obvious?" ad campaign, but got into a wee bit of hot water by co-opting the use of Elmer Fudd without obtaining permission from Warner Bros.. Now, you'd think a major insurance company would have done due diligence, or at the very least had their advertising reps do that, to secure a license.

Here's Elmer (voiced by Billy West), dealing with a director who has no tolerance for Fudd's speech issues. Uploaded by JosephMaggio to YouTube:



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Know the Voice: Allan Melvin explains how he landed the role of Magilla Gorilla

Prime time audiences knew Allan Melvin from his roles on You'll Never Get Rich (aka The Phil Silvers Show, aka Sgt. Bilko), All in the Family, & The Brady Bunch. Cartoon devotees, though, are familiar with him as the voice behind Magilla Gorilla. Melvin would later take over the role of Bluto when Hanna-Barbera acquired a license to produce The All-New Popeye Hour in 1978.

In this excerpt from the series' DVD, Allan explains how he landed the gig back in 1964, with a little help from Joe Barbera.

The video has been pulled by YouTube due to copyright issues. When another poster puts it up, we'll get it back here. Sorry.

Toon Sports: Tom Slick (1967)

Tom Slick was one of two backup features to the original George of the Jungle (1967). In a sense a parody of Japan's Speed Racer, which arrived in America around the same time, Tom (Bill Scott, using a variation of his Dudley Do-Right voice) raced around the world, accompanied by his sweetheart, Marigold (June Foray) and her mother, Gertie (Scott doing a rare female role). BSlater65 uploaded the theme:



Sad to say, more people remember Super Chicken than they do Tom Slick today. You don't really see t-shirts with Slick's picture, do you?

Rating: B-.

Family Toons: Dinky Dog (1978)

If there was a deterrent to Hanna-Barbera's All-New Popeye Hour during its 4 year run on CBS (before the series was shrunk to a half-hour and reformatted), it was the studio's seeming insistence on an original feature added to the show that had zero connection to Popeye himself.

Dinky Dog is about an adorable puppy that grows to mammoth proportions, much to the dismay of its owners, Sandy (Jackie Joseph, ex-Josie & the Pussycats, making her return to H-B) and Monica (Julie Bennett), and their uncle, Dudley (Frank Nelson, ex-Oddball Couple). The theme song, sung by the two actresses, is derivative of the classic theme to The Brady Bunch, while Dinky himself (Frank Welker) may have been loosely derived from Brad Anderson's comic strip, Marmaduke (which would transition to TV 3 years later), even though the breed is different. Dinky, though, could also be construed as the forerunner to the "Beethoven" movie series, and, yep, Beethoven would also transition to cartoons in due course.

The Wikipedia entry on Dinky Dog claimed it was the first H-B series created & produced in Australia, but that is incorrect. That distinction belongs to Funky Phantom, which aired 7 years earlier on ABC. Oh, Dinky might have gotten Down Under in a series of episodes where he, Dudley, Sandy, & Monica were on a world tour, but he was developed in the good ol' USA.

BeAStarEnt uploaded the theme to YouTube. I'm sure you'll get the Brady Bunch connection by listening to the lyrics.



Rating: B-.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Saturtainment: The Weird Al Show (1997)

Song satirist par excellence "Weird" Al Yankovic gave Saturday mornings a try with The Weird Al Show for CBS in 1997. There were a few problems.

1. Yankovic hadn't had a hit on the pop charts in about 5 years.
2. The show aired during the blackout zone in CBS' lineup, where network affiliates would sub syndicated or local programming in order to earn some additional ad revenues for themselves. In my area, Weird Al aired on Sundays for this reason.
3. Saturday icon Dick Clark (ex-American Bandstand)'s production company produced the show, which actually was the kiss of death, because Clark had previously failed with the live-action/animated hybrid Wolf Rock TV with Wolfman Jack more than a decade earlier. If it wasn't connected to Bandstand, you see, it wasn't going anywhere.

And, so, The Weird Al Show was cancelled after just 1 season (the complete series is out on DVD). What CBS was hoping to do, I think, was recapture lightning in a bottle. Asking "Weird" Al Yankovic to do a sketch comedy show in the same vein as the classic Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986-91) was one thing. Making it work was another thing altogether.

Kevn8907 uploaded the following clip, which includes a cameo appearance by former MTV VJ "Downtown" Julie Brown:



Nice idea, and it seemed like Al was picking up where he'd left off with the comedy bits from his late 80's feature film, "UHF". Too bad the network showed him no respect by giving him a bad time slot......

Rating: B-.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Literary Toons: Smurfs (1981)

Originally introduced in a series of books by the Belgian author, Peyo, Smurfs made their American debut in 1981, as NBC totally overhauled their Saturday morning lineup, something they really wouldn't have to do for the next decade or so. Smurfs was one of three series that Hanna-Barbera had on the NBC schedule, all of them 1 hour in length (the revived Flintstone Comedy Hour and Space Stars being the others), and also the most successful, lasting 9 seasons. With a CGI/live-action feature film in the vein of "Scooby-Doo" & "Yogi Bear" due for the holidays, we thought we'd mark the 30th anniversary of the little blue people's introduction to US audiences.

Following is the intro, which goes back to the last 3 or so years of the series, when Baby Smurf was added to the cast.



Paul Winchell used his Dick Dastardly voice for Gargamel, who turned out to be just as much a bumbling, bungling villain as Dastardly.....

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Monchichis (1983)

The Monchichis were a line of stuffed animals first introduced in Japan, and an animated series had been produced there in 1980.

In 1983, Mattel, which saw He-Man & the Masters of the Universe adapted by Filmation for weekday 1st run syndication, obtained a license to make Monchichis toys here in the US, and in turn, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated series for ABC, which had the misfortune of going up against studio stablemate and ratings juggernaut Smurfs over on NBC. The toys didn't sell, either, and within a year, the toys and the show were history. To their credit, H-B tried to create a decent continuing good vs. evil story to sell the show, but the kids weren't buying.

Following is the opener, "Tickle Pickle":



I never saw the show, so I can't give it a fair rating.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On DVD: Josie & the Pussycats (1970)

With DC & Marvel having had their TV adaptations swept off the airwaves by 1970, Archie Comics was the only publisher with any of their characters on the air. Archie's Funhouse was the 3rd incarnation of the Archie gang in as many seasons, and at the same time, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch had been spun off, sharing a half-hour with made-for-TV cousins, the Groovie Goolies. Filmation, which produced those series, no longer had a monopoly, however.

That's because Hanna-Barbera obtained the license to adapt Josie & the Pussycats for television, fresh off the runaway success of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? the previous season. Following the formula that made Scooby an icon, Josie & the Pussycats were sent to various exotic locales, but instead of fake ghosts & monsters, they encountered a number of spies and would-be world conquerors. H-B did the same thing with the other licensed property they acquired that year---The Harlem Globetrotters.

The studio's grand dame of voice-overs, Janet Waldo, applied a more mature version of her Judy Jetson voice for Josie. Jackie Joseph ("Little Shop of Horrors") was cast as vapid drummer Melody, whose naivete could be mistaken for being about as smart as a bag of hammers. Newcomer Barbara Pairot voiced Valerie, who was a whiz with electronics (perhaps inspired by Mission: Impossible's Barney Collier, played by Greg Morris), and was improvising tools for escape long before MacGyver or The A-Team. The singing voices were done by Cathy Daugher, Patrice Holloway, and Cheryl Ladd (pre-Charlie's Angels; billed as Cherie Moor, a shortened version of her given name, Cheryl Stopplemoor). Rounding out the ensemble, you had Alan, the band's roadie (Jerry Dexter), who was also Josie's boyfriend, and the brother-sister team of Alexander & Alexandra Cabot (Casey Kasem & Sherry Alberoni). In the comics, Alexandra was also a witch, but as we've documented before, with Sabrina, a good witch, on the schedule, they didn't want to highlight an evil witch, so Alexandra had her powers taken away, and her familiar, Sebastian (Don Messick, of course), became the unsung hero, occasionally facilitating the gang's escapes. Otherwise, Alexandra & Sebastian became the gang's answer to Dick Dastardly & Muttley (Wacky Races). Alexander, a shady sort in the comics, became less of a weasel and more of a coward, to correlate with Kasem's Scooby-Doo role of Shaggy. It should be pointed out that Kasem didn't voice as many supporting characters as he would on Scooby-Doo or other shows, or as frequently.

16 episodes were cycled through over the course of 2 years, and then Josie & the Pussycats were launched into outer space in 1972. Unfortunately, the quality of animation suffered (largely produced in Australia), as did the writing, but that also was allowed to cycle through for 2 seasons. At the same time, though, the gang did seem to return home after all, what with the guest appearances on The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Josie was picked up by NBC as a mid-season replacement during the 1975-6 season, but only the original series, which went into syndication soon after.

The drawbacks to the DVD release in 2007 are these: Disc 2 is a two-sided job, with 4 episodes per side, plus a bio on Josie's creator, Dan DeCarlo, on side 2. The bio features comments from Casey Kasem (the only cast member interviewed), Paul Dini, Stan Lee, Scott Shaw!, Mark Evanier, Bill Morrison (Bongo Comics), and DeCarlo's widow, Josette, the inspiration for Josie herself. There are trailers for other releases WB had planned at the time, but no behind-the-scenes stories on how the show came to be.

Here's the familiar open, uploaded by CartoonsIntros. Patrice Holloway is the lead singer:



Rating: C+.

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-.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Krofftverse: Far Out Space Nuts (1975)

After 6 years of series on NBC & ABC, Sid & Marty Krofft finally sold one to CBS in 1975.

In some respects, Far Out Space Nuts, were it not for a twist of fate, might've been a companion to ABC's Lost Saucer, the Kroffts' other freshman entry of '75. Both series had the same basic premise, and in a sense were derivative of Irwin Allen's mid-60's sci-fi series, Lost in Space.

Two NASA maintenance workers (Chuck McCann & Bob Denver) are accidentally launched into space when Junior (Denver) mistakenly hits the "launch" button while Barney, his partner (McCann) is loading foodstuffs for a mission. Along the way, they pick up an alien companion, Honk (Patty Mahoney), which draws a parallel to Josie & the Pussycats' misadventures 3 years earlier.

For Denver, it was his 2nd straight Saturday morning series. The New Adventures of Gilligan was in perpetual rerun over on ABC and would be moved to Sundays before long. Space Nuts, in fact, represented another variation on the Gilligan persona, after the syndicated Dusty's Trail had been sent to Boot Hill in 1973. Coincidentally, Denver's co-star on Dusty, Forrest Tucker (ex-F-Troop), had the series airing in back of Space Nuts, Ghost Busters, on CBS. McCann, a former kids' show host in NYC, had become better known for the "Hi, Guy!" spots he did for Right Guard deodorant in those days. McCann was also a writer for Space Nuts, and had done some production work in addition to voice acting on a number of cartoons in the 60's.

Following up the connection to NBC's lone remaining soap opera, Days of Our Lives, after one of its stars of the period, Wesley Eure, had been cast in Land of the Lost the previous year, writer-producer H. Wesley Kenney served in the same capacity on Space Nuts. The series was cancelled after 1 season, and it would be nearly a decade before the Kroffts would give CBS another try.

Here's the open to Far Out Space Nuts. You can picture Alan Hale, Jr. (The Skipper from Gilligan's Island) getting just as exasperated as Barney when Junior hits the launch button......



Rating: B.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Rugrats (1991)

Rugrats was the 2nd of the 3 "first wave" Nicktoons, along with Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show, debuting in 1991, and outlasted the others, even going so far as to spawn a spinoff series, in addition to a pair of feature films.

Rugrats also was the debut effort from producers Arlene Klasky & Gabor Csupo (hence, Klasky-Csupo, which would provide Nickelodeon with other series throughout the 90's), making them major players on the animation scene in the early part of the 90's. The concept, though, was not unique. Writer-artist Sheldon Mayer had introduced Sugar & Spike at DC Comics a number of years earlier, and that might actually have been the core inspiration for the Rugrats.

The two male leads, Tommy Pickles & Chuckie Finster, came across as a potentially classic comedy team. Tommy came up with ideas, while Chuckie, ever cautious, warned of potential hazards, but went along with the ideas anyway. To create antagonistic tension, Tommy's cousin, Angelica, was added as the resident bully.

After two years, Rugrats ceased production, though there were still some episodes in the can that eventually made it to air. The ratings were such that in 1995, the series went back into production, which led to the two movies, and the 2002 follow-up series, Rugrats: All Grown Up, which had spun out of a TV-movie that presented Tommy, Angelica, Chuckie, and the rest as pre-teens, or, to use today's parlance, tweens. All Grown Up aired as a mid-season replacement on CBS' Saturday schedule during the 2003-04 season, and if memory serves, Rugrats also spent some time on CBS as well.

Here's the intro everyone knows:



Now, wouldn't you want your kids to learn lessons from these kids?

Rating: A-.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tooniversary: Pound Puppies (1986)

In the mid-80's, Hanna-Barbera entered into a licensing agreement with Tonka Toys (now a component of Hasbro), which led to a pair of series debuting in 1986. One was the weekday series, Challenge of the Go-Bots, Tonka's answer to the more popular Transformers, now even more ironic by the fact that Tonka is part of the Hasbro family. The other was Pound Puppies, which had actually been introduced to audiences in a syndicated special a year earlier. Here's the open, uploaded by GreatOldCartoons to YouTube:



Last year, Hasbro revived the brand and commissioned a new series to air on their network, The Hub. The new version has radically different animation, not quite as pleasing to fans of the original series. The H-B version lasted two seasons on ABC, and reruns have popped up occasionally on Boomerang. Not sure if Hasbro will pick up the rights and move the original series to The Hub, but it wouldn't be a bad idea.

Rating: B.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saturday Morning Ringside: WWF Livewire (1996)

The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) had a firm grip on Saturday mornings on the USA network for most of the 90's. After WBF BodyStars was cancelled, the promotion held on to the 10 am (ET) berth by shifting its focus over to its primary vocation, wrestling.

First, there was WWF Mania, which debuted just 5 days after Monday Night Raw in January 1993. Radio personality Todd Pettengill, who had re-established himself in New York City after a lengthy run in Albany, was tapped as the series host, and for a while had no less than "Macho Man" Randy Savage as a co-host. Mania lasted 3 1/2 years and was replaced, or succeeded, if you will, with Vince McMahon's 1st attempt at interactive television, WWF Livewire, which bowed in 1996.

Pettengill was retained as host for the first year, joined by Sunny (Tammy Sytch) as co-host. In this clip, Stone Cold Steve Austin stops by.



Pettengill left after a year, and one of his former colleagues in Albany, Michael Cole, stepped in to take his place. The series was cancelled after another year or two, but by then, the interactive format had been abandoned, largely because the corporate myopia had gotten in the way, as usual.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Literary Toons: Redwall (1999)

There was a time, not long ago, when PBS decided to dip its fingers in the Saturday morning cartoon business. Virtually all of their Saturday programming was produced by the Canadian studio, Nelvana, which also has produced the weekday series, Cyberchase, for PBS.

Perhaps the crown jewel of PBS' Saturday block was Redwall, based on the novels by author Brian Jacques, who recently passed away. The series spanned three seasons, broadcast over the course of 2+ years. While it has not officially been cancelled, production has long ceased on the series, as Nelvana & PBS have not been able to convince American advertisers to invest in continuing Redwall. Here's a sample of the 1st episode:



To my knowledge, the series is not yet on DVD, but should, to provide a visual aid for those who might check out the books. In terms of artwork, this represents some of the best work from Nelvana in years!

Rating: A.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Rickety Rocket (1979)

In the far distant future, the Far Out Detective Agency, made up entirely of African-American teens, puts together a makeshift space vehicle for transportation on cases. Rickety Rocket, a component of the Plastic Man Super Comedy-Adventure Show, is considered to be loosely inspired by 1973's Speed Buggy, since Rickety is an open-air flying space buggy comprised of spare parts. How Rickety is able to talk, though, is a real mystery that was never solved.

The fact that the detectives operate out of a junkyard suggests that the Kroffts' Wonderbug (1976) is also an inspiration. Coincidentally, Wonderbug co-star John Anthony Bailey is one of the voice actors in this series, as is prime time vet Johnny Brown (ex-Good Times). Muttley16 uploaded the open, narrated by Michael Rye, to YouTube:



The series lasted one season, and hasn't been seen since. Apparently, concerns over racial stereotypes supposedly presented in this series may be the reason why it hasn't been brought back.

Rating: C.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On DVD: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

In 2039, that era's Batman has a completely new Rogues' Gallery that is a far cry from the original Batman's merry, but often mad, band of bad guys & gals. However, that all changes in the first---and so far, only---feature film spun off from Batman Beyond. Return of the Joker sees the Clown Prince of Crime (Mark Hamill) seemingly return from the dead.

In a previously untold case, Batman (Kevin Conroy) & Batgirl (Tara Strong) attempt to rescue Robin (Matthew Valencia) from Joker and his on-again, off-again squeeze, Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin, Days of Our Lives). However, Robin, in this case Tim Drake, has been transformed into Joker, Jr., brainwashed by the madman of mirth. The ages-old human chess game between the Batman and Joker ends with the Joker's death, but is that the end of the story? Drake was deprogrammed, and forced to retire from crimefighting.

In 2039, Drake (Dean Stockwell, ex-Quantum Leap) is married and a successful engineer, proving there is life after crimefighting. But, with the Joker's sudden reemergence in Gotham, targeting Bruce Wayne in particular, and taking over the Jokerz street gang, the current Dark Knight, Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) questions Drake after Wayne has been attacked and injected with Joker venom (Wayne survived, of course). Drake is still bitter. With Wayne unwilling to shed light on the past, Terry turns to Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Angie Harmon, Law & Order). Gordon had ended her career as Batgirl after that fateful night, and Wayne apparently vowed never to put any more children at risk.

But as it turns out, Joker had an ace up his sleeve, implanting a microchip in Drake that enables him to transmute into a new, slimmer Joker, with the Clown Prince in control. Well, you knew there was a catch, didn't you? Before going further, here's the trailer:



Suffice to say, there is a happy ending, and that's all I'm going to disclose. I was not that big on the futuristic Batman to begin with, and the movie doesn't change my personal opinion one bit.

Rating: B-.

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman Beyond (1999)

Set 40 years into the future, Batman Beyond gives viewers a glimpse of life in 21st century Gotham City with a completely different Dark Knight.

The story begins in 2019, as Bruce Wayne takes on one last case as the Batman, rescuing the daughter of one of his various girlfriends from kidnappers. However, Wayne (Kevin Conroy) suffers a heart attack in the course of battle, and resorts to the one thing he'd sworn never to do, and that is to use a handgun to hold the kidnappers at bay. After the case is closed, Wayne hangs up the costume for what he thinks is the last time. "Never again!", he declares, as he closes down the Batcave.

20 years later, teenager Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle, Boy Meets World), a reformed juvenile delinquent, fends off a subway attack by the Jokerz, a street gang modeled after, of course, The Joker. In retaliation, Terry's father, Warren (Michael Gross, ex-Family Ties) is killed, apparently by the Jokerz, but it would later be revealed that Wayne's corrupt business partner, Derek Powers (Sherman Howard, ex-Superboy), ordered the hit. Powers would later become the mutated villain, Blight. Seeking revenge for his father's death, Terry finds his way into the Batcave and somehow manages to "borrow" the futuristic Batsuit.

Wayne is understandably angered, but he can control the suit from the cave, as Terry finds out to his dismay. However, the two forge an alliance once Terry declares he wants the gig. The former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon (Stockard Channing), now in her father's former role as Police Commissioner, becomes a close confidant to Terry, as her father was to Bruce for many years. In the course of the series, there would be a crossover with Static Shock, and much later, Terry would return in episodes of Justice League Unlimited, where it was revealed that Warren was implanted with some of Bruce's DNA by Project Cadmus. Yes, it turns out that Terry is Bruce's son, hard as that might be to imagine, but then, in the comics, Bruce sired a child by the daughter of his enemy, R'as Al Ghul, so it's possible that while the Batman was inspired by Zorro & the Shadow in the Golden Age, later writers might've added a touch of James Bond.

To give you some idea of the father-son relationship Bruce & Terry had, though it was more teacher & student in the series, here's a clip uploaded by yesinasa666.



The series ended in 2002, but was revived last year in comics form, currently on the racks at your local comics shop. Y'think maybe they ended the show a wee bit too soon?

Rating: B-.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saturday Mornng's Forgotten Heroes: Mighty Man & Yukk (1979)

Mighty Man & Yukk was one of the components of the Plastic Man Super Comedy Adventure Show in 1979. Mighty Man was an amalgam of a number of different heroes, including Batman (Mighty's alter ego was wealthy playboy Brandon Brewster), the Atom (Mighty shrank down in size to fight crime), and Blue Falcon (Yukk is Mighty's canine sidekick, but far uglier than Dynomutt---in fact, the two dogs share the same voice actor, Frank Welker). Yukk's gimmick was that his face was so gruesome, he could literally stop a clock, hence the toy doghouse-mask he had to wear 24/7.

Here's a typical Mighty Man adventure, as our intrepid heroes battle Coach Crime, plus "Bad News Snooze":



The closing credits were produced for syndicated repeats after each component was spun off on its own, or at least, that was the plan.

Edit: 10/4/15: Had to change the video, adding a second short. The opening credits to the first short, "Bad News Snooze", and the title cards have been edited to avoid copyright issues.

Rating: B.

From out of the recycling bin: Hanna-Barbera's World of Super Adventure (1978)

A number of sources, including Wikipedia, claim that the syndicated Hanna-Barbera's World of Super Adventure, a rerun anthology package collecting almost all of the studio's superhero cartoons from 1966-68 (the lone exception being Young Samson & Goliath), was released to stations in 1980. That information, not surprisingly, is incorrect. It actually was released to stations in 1978. Wikipedia claims that the anthology block aired on NBC, but that would also be incorrect.

In New York, for example, World of Super Adventure aired on WNEW (now WNYW), and would have a block running from around 9-12 (ET). The series that I barely remembered as a toddler were all together. Space Ghost & Dino Boy. Frankenstein, Jr. & The Impossibles. Shazzan. The Herculoids. The Fantastic Four. Birdman & the Galaxy Trio. Moby Dick & Mighty Mightor. The opening titles were sometimes deleted in favor of the umbrella opening, narrated by Bob Lloyd (Challenge of the Super Friends' announcer), which mashed together the opens of the various series. Prior to this, reruns of Space Ghost & Frankenstein, Jr. were put together in a half-hour show that aired on NBC as a mid-season replacement during the 1976-77 season, which might be what has confused the person responsible for the Wikipedia entry.

Here is that opening, uploaded by TheGhostPlanet to YouTube:



Rating: A-.

Updated, 4/21/11, with new information.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Toonfomercial: Sidekicks Convention (1998)

Back when Cartoon Network actually cared about classic characters not named Scooby-Doo, they did a few in-house ads like this one, which posits several stars at a restaurant (Hadji's). Now, did ya ever think you'd see Robin (voiced, of course, by Casey Kasem) at a table with Boo Boo, Morocco Mole, & Barney Rubble? Chicken (Charlie Adler), from Cow & Chicken, a relatively new CN series at the time, throws cold water on the whole scene, representative of the attitude that would continually rear its ugly head at CN for years to come. Y'think maybe CN should consider putting this ad on their sister channel, Boomerang?

Sunday Funnies: Doug (1991)

Doug was part of the first wave of Nickelodeon's "Nicktoons" line of in-house animated series, along with Rugrats & The Ren & Stimpy Show. Network executives thought Doug, about an average Everykid, would be the breakout hit of the three, but it wasn't (Rugrats was).

Doug Funnie (voiced by Billy West) appears to be a normal, average kid. He has a pet dog, Porkchop, who is his best friend, and he pines for the love of one of the most popular girls in town, Patti Mayonnaise. Doug, though, is also a dreamer, and his Walter Mitty-esque fantasies recast him as a secret agent, a cowboy, or a superhero, depending on the plot of a particular episode.

Doug was in production for just 3 seasons on Nick before creator-producer Jim Jinkins sold his production company, Jumbo Pictures, to Disney, which revived Doug in 1996 and moved him to ABC as part of their One Saturday Morning block. There, Doug lasted another three seasons, and even got a feature film out of the deal. By then, Tom McHugh took over as the voice of Doug, who was no longer alone in pretending to be a superhero; Patti and Skeeter Valentine also adopted heroic alter egos during the Disney series.

Unfortunately, reruns of either incarnation of the series are not to be found either on Nick or Disney Channel these days. For now, here's the open to the 1996 Disney reboot:



Edit: 3/12/14: The open to the original Nickelodeon series has been deleted due to copyright concerns.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saturtainment: Photon (1984)

American audiences were introduced to Photon sometime around 1987, but the series' actual debut was in Japan in 1984. Hey, I'm only just finding out now, after some research, having only faint memories of this show, that it was imported to this country. It was also DIC's 1st foray into live-action programming, and least successful, at that.

In the mid-80's, Lazer Tag was a popular game, such that it was the basis not only for this series, but for a 1986 animated series, Lazer Tag Academy, which aired on NBC and was produced by Ruby-Spears. Riding the game's popularity, DIC acquired the rights to Photon the next year, but by then, a number of paperback novels had already been published. The series aired in syndication, and in my home district, while none of the local channels carried the series to my recollection, it was picked up by WPIX in New York.

Atomicbunnygirl uploaded this clip to YouTube.



Now that we know this was actually produced in Japan, it's no wonder the special effects looked like something from the 70's!

Rating: C.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teenage Toons: Archie's Weird Mysteries (1999)

Archie's Weird Mysteries marked the return of Archie Andrews & his pals from Riverdale to Saturday morning television, part of an experiment by the PAX network (now Ion) to test the children's programming waters in 1999. DIC (now part of Cookie Jar) produced the series, which could air either on weekdays or weekends, depending on the affiliates' needs. 40 episodes were produced, and it has been shown in syndication on and off since it left PAX in 2000.

The concept was a mash-up of sorts. Archie is now writing for Riverdale High's student-run newspaper, and the Weird Mysteries fell somewhere between Scooby-Doo and The X-Files, while also satirizing movies, such as "The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" and the adaptation of Stephen King's Christine. For your perusal, we present "Attack of the 50-Foot Veronica":



How Veronica could not notice what had happened to her was just beyond amazing. It goes to prove that you don't have to be a blonde to be an airhead......

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturtainment: Run, Joe, Run (1974)

The live-action explosion in the 70's seemingly reached fever pitch in 1974. Filmation got into the act with Shazam!, which lasted three years. The Kroffts finally had a series that went back into production with Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, and added their first dramatic series, Land of the Lost, both on NBC (Shazam! was on CBS), and Hanna-Barbera's Korg, 70, 000 B. C. joined American Bandstand on ABC.

NBC created a 90 minute block of live-action in the center of their schedule. Joining the two Krofft series was Run, Joe, Run, from independent producer William D'Angelo. Joe was a military trained German Shepherd who supposedly attacked his trainer (Arch Whiting). Taking its cue from the iconic prime time series, The Fugitive, Joe leaves the base, forcing his trainer to try to bring him back and clear him. Unfortunately, come season 2, a format change put a stop to that, as Whiting was gradually written out of the show.

Another icon, Paul Frees, is the show's narrator, and explains the entire situation in the open, uploaded by 70skidvid to YouTube:



NBC forced an end to the running by sending Joe to the kennel after 2 seasons. Could it be done now? I'm not so sure, but it'd be worth trying. I didn't watch the show all that much, so I can't give a fair rating.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On the Air: Phineas & Ferb (2007)

ABC' Saturday morning lineup has been frozen, for lack of a better term, the last few years, as Disney has refused to make any significant changes, especially with all of the shows in the ABC Kids block now out of production. ABC lost the rights to the Power Rangers franchise at the end of last season, and turned over the air time to affiliates, rather than import more series from Disney Channel or DisneyXD that could stand the wider network exposure.

One of those shows is Phineas & Ferb, which began as a sneak preview in 2007, then began a regular run a year or so later. The title characters are a pair of enterprising step-brothers who find creative ways to use their time during summer vacation, much to the consternation & frustration of Phineas' control freak sister, Candace (Ashley Tisdale, "High School Musical"). Meanwhile, the boys' pet platypus, Perry, is secretly a secret agent for an animal-centric government agency, battling the bumbling Dr. Doofenshmirtz. In one episode, Perry, who rarely talks, had his mind swapped with Candace's. How Disney could not see the ratings potential in airing Phineas in place of, say, The Replacements, I have no idea.

With Spring Break right around the corner, here's a sample of the episode, "Hawaiian Vacation":



The show's theme is performed by the rock group, Bowling For Soup ("1985"), in case you're wondering. The closest the boys have come to being on ABC is appearing in short skits during college football programming, which included Phineas interacting with sportscaster Brent Musburger. Maybe Disney should take a deeper look into shaking up their stale ABC Kids block, preferably yesterday......

Rating: A.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Houndcats (1972)

DePatie-Freleng's two freshman entries for NBC in 1972 were derived from a pair of CBS prime-time series. The Barkleys was a canine version of All in the Family, though patriarch Arnie Barkley had more in common with Ralph Kramden (The Honeymooners) than Archie Bunker in that Arnie was a bus driver. Meanwhile, DFE used Mission: Impossible as the template for their comedy-adventure series, The Houndcats.

Three dogs & two cats make up the Houndcats, led by Stutz, who had more in common with Maxwell Smart than Jim Phelps, to be honest with you. Actor Michael Bell based his characterization of Stutz on Smart himself, Don Adams, who ironically had done  a prime time series for NBC the previous year---The Partners.

Here's the intro. The theme song was composed and performed by Doug Goodwin:



The series was cancelled after 1 season, perhaps a victim not so much of ratings, but being a wee bit ahead of its time.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Daytime Heroes: Battle of the Planets (1978)

A year after "Star Wars" became a box office phenomenon, science fiction was back in vogue on television, and not just on Saturday mornings. ABC, for example, went to two different extremes, with the sitcom Mork & Mindy, which made Robin Williams a superstar, and the adventure series, Battlestar Galactica.

Syndicator Sandy Frank acquired the rights to translate the 1972 Japanese anime, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, into English. The end result was Battle of the Planets, which actually was an edited version of Gatchaman, removing some more mature aspects of the series to better market the show to young American audiences. Watered down? If you had been able to see the original Gatchaman, you might think so. As it was clearly implied in the Image Comics' revival of the series a few years ago, Zoltar was actually a hermaphrodite, but that couldn't be conveyed to the audience without certain focus groups weighing in and complaining.

Battle of the Planets had a decided Hanna-Barbera touch to it, though. Long time H-B composer Hoyt Curtin was the series' musical director, and composed the score, which may in fact be a wee bit derivative of his All New Super Friends Hour theme from a year earlier. Super Friends narrator Bill Woodson was the uncredited announcer. The voice cast included some more familiar names, most of whom had been or were still associated with H-B, including Keye Luke (ex-Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan) as Zoltar, Ronnie Schell (ex-Goober & the Ghost Chasers), Casey Kasem (Super Friends, Scooby-Doo), and H-B's first lady of voices, Janet Waldo (ex-The Jetsons, Josie & the Pussycats, Wacky Races, etc.). Alan Young (ex-Mister Ed) voiced 7-Zark-7, the robotic aide for G-Force. It should be pointed out that Schell was originally cast as Tiny, the pilot of the Phoenix, but was switched to Jason after the 1st episode. Alan Dinehart took over the role of Tiny, but most sources credit his son, Alan, Jr., as Tiny. David Jolliffe (Clue Club) may have been Jason in the 1st episode.

Battle merits mention in the archives because in some cities, including Albany, the show aired on Saturdays ahead of or, depending on where you lived, in place of network programming. In Albany, it aired 6 days a week, in the era B. O. (Before Oprah, of course). UrbanGuy uploaded the open to YouTube. As Mark (Casey Kasem) would ask before a mission, "Anyone for outer space?".....



In 1986, Ted Turner took over the rights to Gatchaman, in conjunction with Hearst Entertainment, and restored the original prints, resulting in G-Force: Guardians of Space. 10 years later, Saban adapted two follow-up series into Eagle Riders, which aired as a weekly series in the US because by then, there was little room for 1st run syndicated animation on weekdays (Fox & Kids' WB! had daily toon schedules at the time). Consequently, Eagle Riders, like G-Force before it, flopped badly and was cancelled after 1 season. Clearly, Battle of the Planets is the most popular US adaptation, as it was also the most successful, remaining in most US markets for 7 seasons (1978-85).

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Crazy Girl (1978)

StreetKnight1 found this clip, taken from the Krofft Superstar Hour, but Kaptain Kool & the Kongs by all rights could've/would've/should've had another minor hit with "Crazy Girl". Take note of how the Kaptain (Michael Lembeck) & Super Chick (Debra Clinger) are in sync on guitar & tambourine, respectively. Turkey (Michael "Mickey" McMeel) stepped away from the drums to play bass on this cut.



I double dog dare any radio station to play this track some time soon!

Daytime Heroes: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe (1983)

Filmation made a successful first voyage into first-run syndication (at least under the Filmation name) in 1983 with the debut of He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, based on the Mattel toy line that had launched a year and a half earlier. He-Man lasted three seasons before being cancelled to make room for an animated reincarnation of Ghostbusters (previously reviewed), but not before the hero's twin sister, She-Ra, Princess of Power, had debuted during season 3 and granted her own series, which lasted two seasons.

Filmation vet John Erwin, long the voice of Reggie Mantle in the studio's various Archie series, voiced He-Man and his alter-ego, Prince Adam of Eternia. In fact, the heroic timbre Erwin used had previously been created for comic strip hero Dick Tracy 12 years earlier on Archie's TV Funnies.

RetroHeroes uploaded the open:



He-Man would make his Saturday debut in a night-time series that aired on Cartoon Network from 2002-05, produced by independent producer Mike Young. The original series currently airs on RTV on Saturdays (check your local listings), hence its inclusion in the Archives.

Rating: A-.

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends (1973)

Super Friends was the centerpiece of ABC's 1973-74 Saturday morning lineup, bumping the Saturday Superstar Movie down to 12 noon (ET). As we all know, the series would become an iconic franchise, even though the initial series was cancelled after 1 season.

Now, wait a minute, you're probably saying. It did last 13 years, didn't it? Yes, it did. After the initial cancellation, Super Friends was brought back again and again as a mid-season replacement the next three seasons. During that time, DC launched a companion comic book series, which lasted 47 issues before ending in 1981. It was in the comic book that Wendy (Sherry Alberoni, Josie & the Pussycats) and Marvin (Frank Welker), along with Wonder Dog (Welker again) were written out in favor of the Wonder Twins, whom you've already seen in a couple of shorts previously posted here. ABC & Hanna-Barbera relaunched the franchise in 1977 for a 9 year run.

Some of the episodes from the 1973 series, if not all of them, were produced in Australia, which might explain why the entire cast had to play multiple roles. Ted Knight (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) was the narrator, the only time Knight was associated with the franchise, as Bill Woodson replaced him in 1977. Fans have their favorite series, be it the original or the 1978 Challenge series that introduced the Legion of Doom, or any other incarnation.

Here's the open everyone knows.



Too bad Cartoon Network & Boomerang don't have the rights to air the series anymore, but it is available on DVD.

Rating: B.