Sunday, February 26, 2012

From Primetime to Daytime: The Alvin Show (1961)

In the late 50's, Ross Bagdasarian, recording under the stage name David Seville, released the novelty single, "Witch Doctor". That went over pretty big, such that for his next trick, Bagdasarian took advantage of the oddball sounds used on that track and created Alvin & the Chipmunks, who debuted with the holiday single, "The Chipmunk Song", in 1958.

Three years later, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and Seville came to television in The Alvin Show, CBS' latest entry in the primetime animation sweepstakes. The network had experimented with nighttime toons before, mostly with Terrytoons characters not named Mighty Mouse or Heckle & Jeckle, who were reserved for their Saturday morning block. Unfortunately, like Top Cat over on ABC, The Alvin Show lasted just one season, then went into syndication, where the title was changed to Alvin & the Chipmunks. In 1979, NBC picked up the show as a mid-season replacement for one of their flops, and that's where I first discovered the show.

There were 4 segments squeezed into a half-hour. One Alvin short, two musical numbers, and a short featuring pseudo-scientist Clyde Crashcup, who tried to take credit for inventing certain things that were already established, with disastrous results.

Edit: 3/27/15: After previous videos have been deleted by YouTube, we're hoping this trailer for a DVD release of the series will survive.

In the 90's, after the 1983 revival had ended, The Alvin Show resurfaced on Nickelodeon, with the network logo splashed all over the open, just for the sake of the network's corporate ego. After a year, it was incorporated into the variety-anthology series, Weinerville, and when that series was cancelled, Alvin faded from view, and this series hasn't been back since, not even on DVD.

Clyde Crashcup would not return until Alvin had moved from NBC to Fox in the early 90's, appearing in a parody of "Back To The Future". You can guess the role he played. Suffice to say, that was the last anyone has seen of ol' Clyde. Of course, Alvin has carried on, with a series of animated DTV movies, and, since 2007, a series of CGI/live-action movies with Jason Lee (ex-My Name Is Earl) as Seville. For the record, CBS did move the series to Saturdays after the primetime run ended, but apparently it didn't work out too well there, either.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I remember watching the repeats of this version of Alvin back in the 70s or so, but I think it was overshadowed by the 80s version.

You'd think both shows would get more broadcast time since the big screen Chipmunk films were released.

hobbyfan said...

I think it's a matter of who has the rights at present to each of the shows. Disney has run some of the Alvin DTV's on DisneyXD, but you'd think they'd have jumped all over this.

Unfortunately, the programmers are of the belief and/or attitude that today's kids don't want anything that's before their time. Their loss.

Mario500 said...

Only one episode of "The Alvin Show" was released onto DVD. The package for the DVD was titled "The Very First Alvin Show".

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" did not move from NBC to the FOX Broadcasting Company. It may have been broadcast by a FOX station through syndication, but it was not a FOX network program.

The episode with the "Back to the Future" parody was titled "Back to Alvin's Future". Before that episode was broadcast in 1990, Clyde Crashcup reappeared in "A Chipmunk Christmas", which was first broadcast in 1981. Shepard Menken performed as Clyde Crashcup for both episodes.

The appearance by Clyde Crashcup in "A Chipmunk Christmas" was edited for the broadcasts by the ABC Television Network and the ABC Family Channel in 2011. Those broadcasts would have been good opportunities for some folks to become familiar with Clyde Crashcup if they had never seen his segments for "The Alvin Show".

hobbyfan said...

Thanks for picking nits, Mario.

With the change in networks came a change in show titles, as Alvin & the Chipmunks morphed into Chipmunks Go To The Movies. Technically, the guys did move from NBC to Fox, so I stand by my initial post.