Friday, August 24, 2012

Why did Filmation fail at ABC?: A look back

Last time, we looked at the roster of series Filmation sold to NBC between 1973-82. 8 in all, not counting the reruns of Batman & The Super 7 (formerly Tarzan & The Super 7), with only 3 series being renewed beyond the first year. Now, let's examine their body of work for ABC:

*Journey to the Center of the Earth (1967-70): A loose adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel, which had previously been adapted as a feature film starring Pat Boone more than a decade earlier. This series was set in what amounted to the present time, or so it would appear. The series marked the debut of Jane Webb as a Filmation regular, joined by Ted Knight & Pat Harrington, Jr., both of whom would later become better known for their prime time work. As was the practice of the time, only one season's worth of episodes was produced, with the final season airing on Sundays.

*Fantastic Voyage (1968-70): Two years after the feature film adaptation of Isaac Asimov's science-fiction classic, Filmation turned the CMDF into a counter-espionage team, which would be akin to DC Comics' Atom joining the IMF from Mission: Impossible, if you get the drift. Knight & Webb are joined this time by Marvin Miller (Aquaman).

*The Hardy Boys (1969-71): As I wrote when I reviewed this series, maybe this was what inspired Glen Larsen to cast Shaun Cassidy as Joe Hardy for his live-action adaptation of Franklin Dixon's novel series for teens a few short years later. No one knows what happened to the studio musicians hired for the show, but Dallas McKinnon (Daniel Boone), the voice of Archie, also worked on this show. Two new characters were created for the show, while only one member of the supporting cast in the books, Chet "Chubby" Morton, made it to TV. In hindsight, the bubblegum rock was a distraction that killed the show.

*Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down? (1970-2): Replaced the Hardys on the Saturday schedule. Before being cast as Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman on Laverne & Shirley, David Lander made his TV debut voicing comedy legend Lewis' animated alter-ego, whilst Howard Morris handled the various Lewis creations adapted for the series. Being planted in the leadoff spot on the schedule hurt the series in the long run.

*The Brady Kids (1972-4, co-produced with Redwood Productions & Paramount): 1st spin-off from The Brady Bunch, but lost half the kids after the 1st season. Notable mostly for 2 episodes that helped lead to the debut of Super Friends the very next year, giving ABC a franchise (which went to Hanna-Barbera instead of Filmation) that would last well into the next decade, though it would actually take 4 years before it actually achieved franchise status. Too bad no cable net is touching Kids right at the moment. It's also the only series to gain a legitimate renewal for a 2nd season.

*Mission: Magic (1973-4): Australian singer Rick Springfield made his American TV debut, at least vocally, in this back-door spin-off from Brady Kids about a school teacher/sorceress who took her class to various dimensions. Sounds like the later Magic School Bus, but inferior in a lot of ways.

*Lassie's Rescue Rangers (1973-4): Ted Knight's 1-shot return to Filmation brought with him one of the world's most famous dogs. Unfortunately, with Lassie leading a team of forest animals in support of a team of park rangers, it suffered from a serious case of viewer disconnect for some reason, despite its good intentions.

*The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-7, co-produced with Redwood Productions): Replaced the Brady Kids on the schedule, but only one season was produced. That's because Bob Denver (Gilligan) went on to the Kroffts' Far Out Space Nuts for CBS the following year. Not only that, but Tina Louise (Ginger) had disassociated herself from the franchise, forcing Jane Webb into a dual role as Ginger & Mary Ann with Dawn Wells also unavailable. When the cast reassembled for Gilligan's Planet 8 years later, Webb was gone, and Wells had the dual role responsibility. Oy!

*Uncle Croc's Block (Sept.-Dec. 1975): Comedy-variety anthology series that lacked one important element that would've saved the show. Having an occasional musical guest might've kept viewers hooked. Charles Nelson Reilly, on leave from Match Game, top-lined, and managed to lure in some of his show business pals to make guest appearances, while Jonathan Harris (ex-Lost in Space) was the foil as flustered director Basil Bitterbottom. This show was so bad (Chorus: How bad was it?), ABC ended its association with Filmation upon cancelling the show shortly before Christmas!

In honor of one of those stars who passed away earlier this week, we present a "Star Time" segment, uploaded by Muttley16, with Phyllis Diller as Witchy Goo Goo.........

I take back what I said yesterday. 8 series, but one renewal. That's actually worse than NBC! What was at fault? Again, in some cases, a poor time slot. In others, bad writing. I think you can figure out which was which.


magicdog said...

A lot of these shows had potential if you take them on base premise alone. I think Peggy Charren was the reason these failed - at least in part.

With the violence rules in effect, the focus had to go on adventure and comedy. "Journey..." wasn't a bad show, and even today I have enjoyed some episodes. Unfortunately we didn't get a resolution and I don't know why one wasn't made since Filmation apparently knew the show wouldn't be produced beyond one season.

The Hardy Boys adaptation was a good idea, and the rock band thing was part of the trend. The music holds up far better than the show itself. If made today, it could be a much tighter mystery series and more faithful to the books.

Fantastic Voyage was a great idea (merging the shrinking premise of the film but changing the basic plotline) but the stories again, do not hold up well. I do give Filmation kudos for having one of the first (if not THE first) female doctors in animation with Dr. Erica Lane (even if she did fantasize about marrying Commander Kidd!). I still love the opening credits and theme song.

The Jerry Lewis show had potential, but when you have a guy who does cartooney things IRL, it's rather redundant to animate him! Plus, why didn't Jerry voice his own character(s)?

The Brady Kids was OK for the time but again, doesn't hold up well, but seeing The Lone Ranger, Superman and Wonder Woman guesting was nice.

Mission Magic - again, doesn't hold up well (especially the stereotypical students), but the premise is very rebootable IMO. I don't know if Rick Springfield would be up to voicing his magical counterpart, but I think Miss Tickle and her students could fly again through the magic door someday.

Lassie's Rescue Rangers would have been better off if the other animals hadn't been part of the premise. Too silly! It was a risk to have one character (the Turners' youngest son, Ben) portrayed as blind, but I thought that part worked.

The New Adventures of Gilligan bugged me, mostly because of the silly storylines even by the original show's standards (not to mention having animals NOT native to a Southern Pacific island)!! It was nice that most of that cast did their own voices.

Uncle Croc I had never seen save for the clip you posted earlier and what I saw, I couldn't stand! It deserved to fail!

Geed said...

OK! Now we're talking. I love JTTCOTE and Fantastic Voyage TO DEATH! When I found out FV was released in the UK on DVD, I could not hit Amazon.UK fast enough. Sadly, that company has no plans to release JTTCOTE. Hardy Boys I've only seen on YouTube and it had a catchy theme song but wasn't a great cartoon. Jerry Lewis, I've only ever seen the opening. Brady Kids only the Superman/Wonder Woman eps. Again, rehash of Archie down to the models. Mission Magic I bought on DVD and it has the great Filmation retrospective on it. Love watching that. Can't say much about Lassie or New Ads. of Gilligan.

Btw, that Filmation book from TwoMorrows is $23 for the book or $9 for the digital...and they just delayed it another month! It was supposed to be out YEARS ago!

Also, Erica Lane on FV was from the Wonder Girl model from DC Superheroes Teen Titans eps.

hobbyfan said...

Look again at Erica, Geed. She looked more like a grown up Betty Cooper (Archies) than Wonder Girl.

I'll check into that TwoMorrows Filmation book. That might be something to bring home by the holidays.

Magicdog: When did the Lone Ranger appear on Brady Kids? I thought Filmation first gained the license for him in 1980.

magicdog said...

I remember an episode in which Marlin accidentally brought The Lone Ranger & Tonto and their horses to the present. It was called "Long Gone Silver"

I distinctly remember a joke in which Tonto was looking for a trail to follow when he states (in a deadpan manner), "Trail hard to follow in concrete Kemosabe!"

I think Jay Silverheels was brought in to voice the character but don't hold me to it.

hobbyfan said...

Silverheels did appear on Brady Bunch, as I recall, so maybe this was part of the deal. What about the Ranger? Who did his voice?