Friday, September 21, 2012

Archie through the animated years: A look back

This time around, we're turning our attention to one of Filmation's more successful licensed franchises, The Archies. The initial Archie Show marks its 45th anniversary next year, so now would be a good time to take a look back not only at Filmation's 10 year run with the beloved characters, but the later incarnations as well.

*The Archie Show (1968-9): Seeing the success DC was enjoying with Filmation, Archie Comics entered into a deal that turned out to be a bit more profitable for them after all was said & done. The 30-minute format allowed for 2 shorts, plus bizarre dance steps, with a particular song tied to each "Dance of the Week".

The series expanded to an hour in 1969 and underwent a title change to The Archie Comedy Hour, which provided a window through which Sabrina, the Teenage Witch would be spun off into her own series. Otherwise, it was more of the same. The next year, the series title changed again, this time to Archie's Funhouse, this time putting an emphasis on the Giant Jukebox. Filmation first experimented with live-action by using an audience full of kids to give the band someone to play in front of.

*Archie's TV Funnies (1971-3): Now, the gang has somehow been put in charge of a local television station in Riverdale. The "programming" consists of adaptations of newspaper strips such as Howard Post's Dropouts, iconic series such as Dick Tracy, Smokey Stover, & Moon Mullins, and a relatively new strip in Russell Myers' Broom-Hilda, who would return when Filmation revisited the concept in 1978's Fabulous Funnies. Taking the emphasis off Archie and the gang didn't really work, as only one season of episodes was cycled through two seasons.

*Everything's Archie (1973-4): Merely The Archie Show with a new title and all repeats from the first three seasons. Filmation was killing time while trying to find an appropriate avenue for the next series.

*US Of Archie (1974-6): Supposedly, the gang had ancestors throughout history. That was the only way to explain how they could be at various points in time, including meeting Thomas Edison. For the first time in three years, there was new Archies music, with ex-Doodletown Piper Tom McKenzie as the new singing voice of Archie (Ron Dante had left and was now producing records for Barry Manilow). Unfortunately, CBS didn't give the series a premium slot on the schedule, as Filmation began to experiment with full-on live-action series (Shazam! debuted that same year). The show moved to Sundays to finish the run, ending an 8 year run at CBS.

*The Archie-Sabrina Hour (1977): After a live-action pilot produced by James Komack (Welcome Back, Kotter) failed to sell at ABC, the gang moved to NBC in a 1 hour compilation series. I've always believed this was all-new material, especially with the introduction of a new Latino character, Carlos, who didn't appear in the comics all that much, if at all. Unfortunately, viewers turned away in droves. Filmation sold a 2nd series to NBC, The Young Sentinels (aka Space Sentinels) that same season, and that also failed to fire. About 2 months into the season, NBC split the 1 hour into two component parts: Super Witch (Sabrina) & The Bang Shang Lallapalooza Show (Archie), but that didn't work, either, and the whole kit 'n' kaboodle was gone by April '78, ending Filmation's association with Archie Comics over the course of 10 years, with '76 the only year without Archie on the schedule.

*The New Archies (1987-8): After nearly a decade away, the gang returned to television, but with a couple of big changes. For one, DIC (now part of Cookie Jar) took over producing the cartoons and acquired the distribution rights to the earlier Filmation library. Second, this series was a sort-of prequel to the 1968-78 toons in that the gang are in junior high. Dilton Doiley & Sabrina were the most notable absentees from this series, though DIC would eventually do a Sabrina solo series a few years later, based off the live-action series that bowed in 1996. NBC was home to New Archies, but the result was the same. Cancelled after 1 season, though reruns would pop up on cable in the early 90's.

*Archie's Weird Mysteries (Pax (now Ion) 1999-2000): It's best described as a generous cross between the classic Archie toons from the Filmation era, Scooby-Doo, & The X-Files. DIC produced this series, too, and kept it going in syndication for years, especially considering that there were 40 episodes produced. Archie's now an investigative reporter for Riverdale High's student newspaper, and narrates each episode. Most notable were satires of Stephen King's Christine and the cult classic, "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman", using Veronica in the latter case.

It's been talked about that Filmation's 1981 series, Hero High, was originally meant to be a return vehicle for Archie and the gang, this time adapting their 60's superhero personas to television for the first time, but it didn't happen, and the studio had to create new characters and an accompanying pre-fab band. Small wonder, then, that Kid Super Power Hour With Shazam! was another 1-year dud. It wasn't until some 15-odd years later that Veronica would be given a costumed alter-ego in the comics, and it was short-lived (at least for now).

Seeing as how Marvel & DC maintain a regular presence on television, why can't a smaller company like Archie do the same? A new Archie series is waaaaaaay overdue, but the only question is, will anyone take a chance? The only way to find out is to stay tooned.........


magicdog said...

I used to love watching Archie & the gang, but after having seen the old Filmation show ("Everything's Archie") on KTV recently, I can't tolerate it.

Nostalgia covers for a lot of flaws, but not for the old Archie toons. I haven't seen "US of Archie" in forever but the feelings are likely to be the same. I remember as a kid I enjoyed that show more since it involved actual historical figures, and not jokes we stopped telling each other in 3rd grade!

I did enjoy "Archie's Weird Mysteries" because the gang actually had something to do and I thought it blended the elements of Archie and shows like "X-Files" quite well.

I wouldn't mind if a reboot were to come about, but it would have to have a strong sense of purpose for the gang. Archie needs storylines, not jukebox jokes. It would be a hoot if Sabrina and Josie & The Pussycats could pop in from time to time as well.

hobbyfan said...

I think DIC blew it big time by not including Sabrina in the Weird Mysteries series, and that might be because of 1) the sitcom, upon which they based 2 Sabrina toons, and 2)a reluctance on the part of Viacom to acknowledge any link 'tween Sabrina & the Archie gang.

A reboot would work based on the more realistic storylines used recently in the comics, including the introduction of Kevin Keller and Archie's fling with Valerie of Josie & the Pussycats (!). It's stuff that current readers know about that would adapt well for TV, under the right circumstances. Since DIC has been absorbed by Cookie Jar, rights could be up for grabs.

Scoobyfan1 said...

I remember watching Archie's Weird Mysteries in reruns on weekday mornings a few years after it left Pax.

It was a good series, and I think having Sabrina could have been a good idea for the show, but it probably didn't happen because of what you mentioned hobbyfan.

hobbyfan said...

I think what happened is that DIC cut separate deals for Archie & Sabrina, same as Moonscoop did this year. Since the live-action Sabrina established a new continuity in which Sabrina and her aunts don't live in Riverdale (though they do in the books), DIC followed that with their 2 series.

Trust me, if they thought things through, since their 1st Sabrina series had her as a pre-teen, DIC could've easily gotten Melissa Joan Hart to guest star as Sabrina in an ep or two to help Archie out in solving a mystery.