Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Daytime Heroes: M.A.S.K. (1985)

Kenner Toys, now part of Hasbro, introduced the M.A.S.K. line of action figures in 1985, so, naturally, there was a daily animated series to help sell the line. The series lasted three years, 75 episodes in all, meaning only 10 new shows were produced after season 1.

In addition to the series, a license was granted to DC for a 4-part comics miniseries, and there were also comics published in the UK based on the show. Like fellow DIC frosh Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors, which came out that same season, M.A.S.K. had a kickin' theme song, and even though the concept was a bit derivative of GI Joe, it still managed to form its own fanbase.

Nearly 25 years later, after absorbing Kenner and some of its other rivals, Hasbro incorporated some of the characters, including Matt Trakker & Miles Mayhem, into the GI Joe line, so you can forget about any chance of a revival.

Following is the series opener, "The Deathstone":



Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holy Women's Lib, Batman! (1974)

A mini-Batman reunion highlights this long forgotten public service announcement (PSA), produced in 1974. Burt Ward (Robin), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), and narrator William Dozier are all back, but instead of Adam West, we have Dick Gautier (ex-Get Smart) as Batman. At that time, West was looking to avoid being typecast, but as we all know, he'd later re-embrace the mantle of the Bat.

As it is, Gautier has only one line, trying his hardest to mimic West (serviceable, but not perfect), but that leaves room for Batgirl to make her case for equal pay (as if there was ever a salary scale for superheroes). This would be the last time we'd hear from Dozier, but Ward would reunite with West 5 years later for The New Adventures of Batman.

Uploaded by Tommy Brookshire:


Animated World of DC Comics: Night of the Living Shadows (1988)

The Shadow-Thief is one of Hawkman's enemies, not Superman, but that didn't seem to matter to writer Buzz Dixon, who penned the episode, "Night of the Living Shadows", the next to last episode of the 1988 series.

Lex Luthor (Michael Bell) has developed his own shadow-suit, and created a line for a gang of thugs. Of course, with his new image as a millionaire businessman-philanthropist, Luthor can't be linked to the crimes publicly, as you'll see. Lois Lane goes undercover, and, well, chaos ensues soon after.



Now, Lois does look kind of fetching in a shadow-suit, doesn't she? Too bad the series was cancelled, else we might've gotten a sequel, even though Luthor destroyed his suit......

Rating: A+.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spooktober: Toonsylvania (1998)

Steven Spielberg's last animated series for Fox wasn't produced with Warner Bros., but rather with the company he co-founded, Dreamworks. As it turned out, moving out from under the WB shield, proved to be a costly mistake for Toonsylvania.

The series initially aired on Saturdays, packaged with Goosebumps and reruns of Eerie, Indiana, but low ratings dictated a banishment to weekdays, particularly on Tuesday afternoons, and the series was subsequently cancelled, although reruns would return intermittently until 2000.

The show's cast included Brad Garrett (later of Everybody Loves Raymond) and Wayne Knight (ex-Seinfeld, and would later join the cast of Third Rock From The Sun), with guest appearances by Jonathan Harris (one of his last toon jobs) and Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons). In addition to Spielberg, the creative personnel included cartoonist Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm). How could they have gone wrong? Simple. Not enough promotion, but then, Fox wasn't that big on emphasizing one show at a time.....!

CBS-Paramount now owns the rights to the show, but it sits presently in the vaults. What a shock.

Here's a sample clip:



No rating. Never saw the show.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spooktober: Fat Albert Halloween Special (1977)

Hey! Hey! Hey! Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids returned to their primetime roots in a 1977 Halloween special, one of two holiday treats during the series' 12 year run on CBS.

I'd better explain the "primetime roots" part to some of you uninitiated folks. See, while series creator Bill Cosby was starring in a self-titled sitcom for NBC, the network aired a pair of primetime specials that first introduced viewers to Fat Albert and the rest of Cosby's childhood pals. A different studio produced those two shows, but Filmation struck a deal with Cosby when the iconic series launched in 1972, a year after Cosby had graced PBS on The Electric Company.

Anyway, the gang learns not to believe heresay when it comes to the elderly, specifically a widow who's been cast in a bad light by a so-called friend of the gang. I am not sure if CBS took the opportunity to air this episode on a Saturday afternoon, when the series normally aired.......

Here's a preview:



Rating: A.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Golden Age of Justice (2010)

From season 2 of Batman: The Brave & the Bold:

Batman (Diedrich Bader) first teams with Detective Chimp in the teaser segment, but after that, the Justice Society & Black Canary join the Caped Crusader to take down old foe Per Degaton in "The Golden Age of Justice".

One quibble. In the comics, Professor Zee, shown as Degaton's servant, was actually Degaton's employer, and looked nothing like the character shown here. Instead, the animated Zee bears some resemblance to Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, arch-nemesis of Captain Marvel. How the producers screwed this up, I'll never know.

For now, we only have this sample:



It's a pity the series has ceased production, but that was Cartoon Network's call. Of course, those idiots are creating some havoc with their DC Nation block, which we'll discuss another time.

Rating: A.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spooktober: Big Wolf on Campus (1999)

In 1999, Fox Family (now ABC Family) picked up a Canadian produced adventure series that was a twist on the 1985 movie, "Teen Wolf" (which later became an animated series and was revived as a drama last year by MTV).

Big Wolf On Campus lasted three seasons, and was often aired not only on Saturdays, but also on weekdays, which of course meant instant burnout. High school quarterback Tommy (Brandon Quinn) was bitten by a werewolf while on a camping trip, and thus becomes a werewolf himself. Only diff is, Tommy is using his new powers as the secret defender of his town. Best buddy Merton, the resident geek (Danny Smith, who also composed and sang the show's theme song) is at first the only one who is privy to Tommy's secret.

In season 2, Tommy & Merton picked up a female sidekick (Aimee Castle) who would also be Tommy's girlfriend for the rest of the series. I could swear two of the other students bore some resemblance to Bulk & Skull, the comedy relief bullies from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Anyway, here's the season 2 open.



Since its cancellation in 2002, the series has been buried in the Disney vaults. Go figure, as it would be a companion series to Disney Channel's My Babysitter is a Vampire.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spooktober: Seymour Presents (1971)

We've all read about classic horror show hosts like Ghoulardi, Zacherle, Svengoolie, and, in recent years, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who became a cottage industry of merchandising all by herself. There is one, however, who seems to have slipped through the cracks.

The sinister Seymour (Larry Vincent) was based in Southern California, working for KHJ-TV and hosting a Friday night program. In 1971, Seymour went national with a syndication deal through Rhodes Productions, which later became a subsidiary of Filmways. Anyway, Seymour Presents was meant to air at night (of course), but in Albany, NY, the show aired in the afternoon occasionally, when there wasn't any sports programming on the schedule.

Sad to say, no footage of Seymour Presents is actually available on YouTube at present, and all I can offer you of the late Seymour, who passed away in 1975, is this outtake from KHJ-TV.



About the only film I can recall seeing on this show was "The Monster Club", with Vincent Price & John Carradine, among others. I guess that, in a nutshell, illustrates just how forgotten Seymour has become. Rating: C.

Spooktober: Halloween is Grinch Night (1977)

Dr. Seuss' Halloween is Grinch Night was one of the last specials produced by DePatie-Freleng, and premiered on ABC in 1977, the first Seuss entry to air on a network other than CBS. Now, I've always felt that these primetime offerings could've been repurposed on a Saturday morning closest to Halloween, but the networks never took advantage unless it had to do with a series already established on the Saturday schedule, the notable exception, of course, being Bugs Bunny, since his primetime offerings for CBS were mostly clip shows with a new plot tying everything together.

Anyway, Dr. Seuss and DFE thought it might be a good idea to expand upon the iconic Grinch (voiced this time by Hans Conreid, who had previously starred in a live-action film adaptation of another Seuss story, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T), thinking, perhaps rightfully, that Halloween would be the only other holiday that would be perfect for him. See for yourself.



Seuss (Ted Geisel) wrote the lyrics, but the rest of the music was composed by the late Joe Raposo (Sesame Street). Sadly, while Universal, as you can plainly see, bought the rights as part of the deal that enabled them to adapt "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" & "The Cat in the Hat" into live-action feature films, it doesn't appear as though it'll air anywhere over the next week. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

No rating, as I never saw this show, and cannot fairly rate it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: The Super Friends battle "Terror From The Phantom Zone' (1978)

What people forget about Challenge of the Super Friends is that it was originally a 1 hour show. The first half continued the team adventures from the previous year, and the second half was the Justice League vs. the Legion of Doom, with the Wonder Twins conveinently in absentia (though they'd encounter some of the Legion members, including Lex Luthor, in later seasons).

Just in time for Halloween, we offer up "Terror From The Phantom Zone". Three Kryptonian outlaws, long banished to the Phantom Zone, somehow find their way to Earth, bringing with them some Red Kryptonite, which is the first time that variation on the Kryptonite was used in the franchise, and would be used again a couple more times in succeeding seasons.



In some ways, this would be a precursor to Superman battling three different Kryptonian foes in "Superman 2", three years later, and that was actually a better story.....!

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From Comics to Toons: Matty's Funday Funnies (1959)

This was before my time, so you know there won't be a rating on this show.

Matty's Funday Funnies, sponsored by Mattel Toys, aired on ABC as a (mostly) Sunday morning entry, after first running on Friday nights, beginning in 1959. The series ran for three years, and featured Harvey Comics characters including Casper & Playful Little Audrey, both of whom had starred in theatrical shorts for Famous Studios (Paramount). Toontracker provides the open & close:



In 1962, the series was changed to simply Matty's Funnies, which headlined Bob Clampett's Beany & Cecil. In the above video, actor Marvin Miller (The Millionaire, later the voice of Aquaman) is the show's announcer. Matty Mattel, the company "mascot", was voiced by two actors during the course of Mattel's TV run. Cecil Roy (a woman, believe it or not) essayed the role during the Funday era, but when Beany & Cecil became the stars, Matty's voice was done by a future TV icon-----Bill Mumy (better known for Lost In Space). Who'dathunk?

Now, don't ya wish they brought this back?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tooniversary: Nightmare Ned (1997)

Based on a video game that probably has been lost to the mists of time, Nightmare Ned was a spring replacement series that aired on ABC from April-September 1997.

The title character is a 10 year old boy whose imagination runs wild, creating bizarre nightmares while he sleeps at night. I never saw the show myself, so I can't honestly give a rating here. What we will do is offer up the intro to the show......



The official reason given for the series' sudden cancellation was that it went over the production budget. Hmmm? Disney? Over budget? Who'dathunk?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On The Air: Rob Dyrdek's Wild Grinders (2012)

To illustrate just how much MTV has changed in recent years, their most recognizable personality in 2012 is master multi-tasker Rob Dyrdek, who has had a series of some kind on MTV and its sister channels for the last six years.

This year, Dyrdek, currently hosting Ridiculousness on MTV, along with the presumably-still-in-production Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory, added to his workload with an animated series based on his new toy line, Wild Grinders, airing on weekends on MTV's sister network, Nicktoons.

Wild Grinders features some kids, including one based on Dyrdek himself, learning about skateboarding, extreme style. In a way, it recalls Disney's short-lived ABC series, The Weekenders, from a few years back. The abstract animation style might not exactly be a feast for the eyes, but........!

Following is the episode, "The Lost Skate Spot":



The series currently airs on Sunday mornings, and I'm not sure if it still runs on Friday nights, it's primary home.

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturtainment: Weekends with the Bowery Boys

In answer to WPIX's weekly airings of classic Abbott & Costello comedies on Sundays, WNEW (now WNYW) would air the Bowery Boys, aka the East Side Kids, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at noon. More often than not, the movies only lasted an hour, setting up the station's afternoon movie block.

Leo Gorcey & Huntz Hall were the main stars, but, believe it or else, it was one of the supporting cast, Gabriel Dell, who'd find his way to primetime, as one of the stars of a short-lived ABC sitcom, The Corner Bar, in the mid-70's. Hall would make a guest appearance on the show, but, amazingly, it was underpublicized!

Captbijou uploaded this trailer for the Boys' 1946 offering, "Spook Busters".



They made you laugh, but you also cheered them on when they ganged up on the bad guys and handed out some beatdowns.

Rating: B.

From Primetime to Daytime: Evil Con Carne (2003)

Once upon a time, Hector Con Carne was a evil genius & playboy, until an accident reduced him to a disembodied brain and stomach, the latter often idependent of the brain, if you can believe it. Con Carne still wants to rule the world, but even a bodiless brain can feel jealous or even envious of other villains.

Maxwell Atoms' Evil Con Carne, originally 1/2 of the compilation series, Grim & Evil, when it bowed on Cartoon Network in 2001, became a stand alone series in 2003, but didn't have the popularity or staying power of its companion series, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, which we reviewed earlier this week. One wonders how this series could've bombed when the other show, which co-headlines a juvenile imbecile, struck ratings gold.

Hector (Phil LaMarr, Samurai Jack, Justice League Unlimited, etc.) has just three aides. One is a bear that carries Hector atop his head and the stomach wrapped around his waist, Major-Dr. Ghastly, who had pined for Hector when he was human, and General Skarr, who looks like the love child of two 60's no-goodniks, Natasha Fatale & her Fearless Leader (like, you were expecting Boris Badenov?), based largely on the fact that Skarr's facials resemble those of Fearless Leader to an extent. Of course, CN had another series that tried to pay homage to Jay Ward, Sheep in the Big City, and that didn't work so well, either. As it turns out, the real villain of the following episode happens to be Hector's next door neighbor.

Here's the open:



I think they were better off trying to transplant Hector's brain into Billy or his father, for whatever that would've been worth (read: not much).

Rating: B--.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saturday School: Detention (1999)

It seems as though Kids' WB! was bent on making Saturday a 6th day of school. Homeschool, that is.

Why else, then, would they have come up with a show like Detention? A group of tweens try to avoid trouble, but inevitably end up in the detention room. Voice talent for the show includes Tia & Tamera Mowry (who were starring in another WB series, Sister, Sister, at the time), Kathleen Freeman ("The Blues Brothers"), voice-over regulars Billy West (Futurama) & Tara Strong, and, making a bit of a comeback, 60's & 70's vet Pamelyn Ferdin (ex-Curiosity Shop).

Methinks Detention was created to counter-program Disney's Recess, which was dominating ABC's Saturday lineup at the time. Unfortunately, it just didn't have the staying power.

Here for your edification is the episode, "Too Good To Be Truant":



At present, the series doesn't have a cable home. Such a shame.

Rating: C.

Spooktober: Fright to the Finish (1954)

Popeye doesn't seem interested in Olive Oyl reading a book on Halloween stories. Then again, neither is Bluto, but you know eventually the boys will start trying to out-spook each other, with Olive caught in the middle, as usual, in "Fright to the Finish", a 1954 offering. JoieBellaMusic uploaded this piece, which unfortunately is a print from the days when Associated Artists Productions (AAP) held the rights to certain Popeye & WB cartoons.



Oh, just how did Olive manage to put up with it all for all those years and never give up on Popeye?

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spooktober: The Devil & Daniel Mouse (1978)

Canada's Nelvana Studios made their first inroad in American television with a series of syndicated animated specials in the late 70's. One of their first efforts was The Devil & Daniel Mouse, an adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's The Devil & Daniel Webster, which in turn was adapted from a lesser known tale by Washington Irving.

The story is rather simple. Daniel Mouse is a musician by trade, along with his partner, Jan. After losing a gig because their sound is out of touch with the preferences of the period, Daniel decides to hock his guitar. Jan wanders off and meets a reptile named B. L. Zebubb (Chris Wiggins). Naturally, Zebubb is a personification of the Devil and he tricks Jan into signing a deal that would entail (pardon the pun) Zebubb claiming her soul at a certain point. Success comes easily, but when it's time to collect the prize he wants most, Zebubb runs into some resistance. Jan turns to Daniel for help, and, well........!

Daniel's singing voice is provided by former Lovin' Spoonful frontman John Sebastian, whom most of you probably know better for having composed and sung the theme to Welcome Back, Kotter. Sebastian also narrated a record album version of the special, which, sadly, is lost to the mists of time. The album, that is. A documentary chronicling the making of Devil & Daniel Mouse was included with the DVD release of the studio's feature film, "Rock 'N' Rule", leaving hope that the special, and the rest of Nelvana's pre-80's output here in the US will see a DVD release down the road.

Now, here's The Devil & Daniel Mouse. You'll notice Warner Bros. handled distribution for Nelvana in this case.....



Rating: None. I never saw it, so I can't fairly judge it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spooktober: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (2003)

Cartoonist Maxwell Atoms came up with a pair of bizarre series in 2001, which Cartoon Network merged together as a half-hour series, Grim & Evil. 2 years later, the two components were split into separate series. Evil Con Carne didn't last very long, but viewers took to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, though I honestly cannot see how.

Mandy (Grey DeLisle) is a spoiled, arrogant brat who intimidates even her own parents. She and her friend (and that's being kind), Billy, managed to win the friendship for life of the Grim Reaper. What blows my mind is how the Reaper was given a Jamaican accent in the first place. Well, that goes right up there with Dexter having a Russian accent and American parents as an unsolved mystery......!

Anyway, Billy's about as sharp as a broken toothpick, but, then again, it seems to be hereditary. His father is shown to also be dumber than a bag of hammers.

Here's the intro:



We'll soon review Evil Con Carne and try to figure out how that could've possibly bombed. Meanwhile, Atoms hasn't been heard from since the two series ceased production.

Rating: C.

Animated World of DC Comics: Three Wishes (1981)

The Wonder Twins learn a hard lesson about reading labels meant to avoid danger in this 1981 Super Friends tale, "Three Wishes". You'd think they'd have learned about dealing with evil genies after their adventure 2 years ago in "Rub Three Times For Disaster", but then again, Zan (Michael Bell) isn't exactly a Rhodes scholar, if you catch my drift.



As you can tell, Jayna had her doubts from the go. She always did have the brains in the family, anyway. Oh, and adding a cape to her costume isn't so bad, even if it's temporary. If only the writers could've at least considered letting her go on a date with Robin.....!

Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Saturday Morning Ringside: Golden Age of Wrestling

I regret that I cannot provide a specific starting point for ESPN Classic's Golden Age of Wrestling anthology series, which encompasses primetime wrestling action from the 50's & 60's, long before wrestling devolved, if you will, into sports entertainment.

The series started when the network was known as Classic Sports Network, which was later acquired by Disney and added to the ESPN family of networks. This serves as a primer for wrestling fans who'd read and heard of earlier stars like Mark Lewin, whose career extended all the way into the 80's, and into runs with the NWA & World Class Championship Wrestling, and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, whom a lot of today's fans probably only know from a short-lived interview segment he did on television for the then-World Wrestling Federation (1983 or thereabouts).

The following video presents an interview with Lewin, then-tag team partner Don Curtis, and manager Mighty Atlas, originally recorded in 1962 in Chicago.



Currently, ESPN Classic is now a premium channel in some markets, including mine (Boo! Hiss!), and at last check, the network was rerunning AWA tapes from its run on ESPN in the late 80's. Golden Age of Wrestling either is stuck in the vaults, or ESPN dropped it altogether, I'm not sure which is the case.

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

From Comics to Toons: Krazy Kat (1963)

George Herriman's Krazy Kat returned to animated form in 1963 as part of King Features Syndicate's syndicated anthology package that also included Beetle Bailey & Snuffy Smith. Unlike those other strips, Krazy and Ignatz Mouse had some previous experience, appearing in a series of theatrical shorts for Columbia in the early 30's.

The biggest dispute over Krazy has to do with gender. Herriman intentionally made Krazy gender-neutral, but in the KFS shorts, produced by William Snyder & Gene Deitch, Krazy is clearly female, swooning over Ignatz despite his hatred of her. Otherwise, the androgynous status of Krazy remained intact in the comics and likely also in those Golden Age shorts. Snyder & Deitch didn't exactly endear themselves to fans of Tom & Jerry or even KFS stablemate Popeye, so ya wonder what was it that got them the contract to handle Krazy & Ignatz's misadventures.....!

Hewey1972 uploaded the intro, which illustrates exactly what I referred to above....



Rating: B-.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spooktober: Groovie Goolies & Friends (1977)

In answer to Hanna-Barbera's Fred Flintstone & Friends compilation package, Filmation put together a syndicated package of their own for weekday consumption in 1977.

Groovie Goolies & Friends put together repeats of the Goolies' 1970-2 series, plus the following (all of which have previously been reviewed):

*Lassie's Rescue Rangers (1973)
*My Favorite Martians (1973)
*New Adventures of Gilligan (1974)
*Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty (1975)(retitled, New Adventures of Waldo Kitty for this series)

And, from 1975's Uncle Croc's Block: Fraidy Cat, Wacky & Packy, & M*U*S*H.

Moviereviews4u uploaded the open to YouTube:



Each episode was presented in its entirety, unlike on Fred Flintstone & Friends, which tried to cram two shows into one by splitting half-hour episodes into 2-parters. For example, they'd run 1/2 of Jeannie coupled with 1/2 of, say for example, Yogi's Gang, which was actually counterproductive. In this case, Filmation got it right.

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman vs. Moon Man (1977)

From The New Adventures of Batman comes a 1-shot villain called the Moon Man.

Scott Rogers (voice of Len Weinrib), a college friend of Bruce Wayne (Adam West), is bunking with Wayne & Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) at Wayne Manor while in town for a series of speaking engagements. Concurrently, the Moon Man is stealing moon-related items in a twisted crusade that would be typical of the period.

A few quirks. Take for example, Bat-Mite. I've often believed Len Weinrib also did his voice, but most sources credit co-producer Lou Scheimer, who didn't take any credit for any of the supporting characters he did in any Filmation cartoon until the 80's.  Weinrib also had the task of voicing Commissioner Gordon, while Melendy Britt stepped in for Jane Webb as Batgirl, even though Ms. Webb could've been brought back, seeing as how she returned for The Archie-Sabrina Hour 7 months later. Also, Bat-Mite not only has the crush on Batgirl I've talked about before, but he has green skin, something that I don't think was the case in the comics. As noted previously, right around this time, DC was teasing making Robin & Batgirl a romantic couple, but it was only after years of flirtacious pursuit---and Robin eventually becoming Nightwing---before things finally got serious. With The Mary Tyler Moore Show having ended production, Ted Knight could've been brought back as Commissioner James Gordon, but apparently, he'd sworn off cartoons after his last work for Filmation, Lassie's Rescue Rangers, had tanked 4 years earlier.

If you listen close to Len Weinrib's characterization of Scott Rogers, you'd think Weinrib was attempting to mimic Casey Kasem, who was now firmly entrenched at Hanna-Barbera......!



I remember missing this when it first aired, instead picking up a subsequent rerun feed----on the radio, after all the shuffling of affiliates.

Rating: B.

The Super Friends through the years: A look back

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Super Friends franchise making its debut on ABC, but this year is the 35th anniversary of its revival under the title, The All-New Super Friends Hour. Sure, it's been alternately praised and reviled, depending on whose commentary you're reading, but bear in mind that until the mid-80's, the series was hamstrung by anti-violence restrictions put in place after the first wave of superhero cartoons in the 60's. Let us consider, then, the history, which actually begins 40 years ago.........

*1972:

Batman & Robin, voiced once more by Olan Soule (ex-Dragnet) and radio legend Casey Kasem (American Top 40), made 2 guest appearances on The New Scooby-Doo Movies on CBS, marking their debut with Hanna-Barbera. Kasem was accustomed to essaying additional roles aside from Norville "Shaggy" Rogers in just about every Scooby cartoon, so this was nothing new, and he'd pull double duty again when Josie & the Pussycats teamed with Scooby, but that's another story. Both Scooby-Dynamic Duo team-ups saw them face off with the Joker & the Penguin, and the producers of Batman: The Brave & the Bold paid homage by including a 3rd meeting between the Caped Crusaders & Mystery Inc. vs. Joker & Penguin in an episode that also featured song satirist "Weird" Al Yankovic several months back.

Meanwhile, Filmation finally was able to make use of Wonder Woman as she guest-starred on The Brady Kids, over on ABC, in the episode, "It's All Greek To Me". Superman would appear in a separate episode, but for now that is unavailable on YouTube. However, it appeared this would be the end of DC's involvement with Filmation, as H-B acquired the license to produce Super Friends.

*Super Friends (1973-77): Only one season was produced, but as was the practice of the time, the reruns would cycle through for a second year, and then the show was brought back as a mid-season replacement during the 1975-6 & 1976-7 seasons.

The concept was rather simple. Instead of fighting familiar enemies such as the Joker or Luthor, Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, & Aquaman would be beset with ordinary, misguided scientists and average citizens (such as Mr. & Mrs. Mole). One of the better episodes of the series saw Green Arrow make his only appearance in the series in an episode that was inspired in part by Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, but the Gulliver in this story was a scientist upset with population growth. Casey Kasem played Gulliver and did a near-perfect Peter Lorre impersonation in essaying the part. Ex-Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni (ex-Josie & The Pussycats) & Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo) voiced trainees Wendy & Marvin, respectively, and Ted Knight (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) served as narrator.

*The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977-8): After three years of reruns, the Super Friends returned, and there were changes galore, mirroring what had been done in the namesake comic book that bowed a year earlier.

Wendy & Marvin  had been written out of the comics, replaced by the Wonder Twins, Zan & Jayna, shapeshifters from the planet Exor. As we've documented, the two sets of teens would meet in the comics, but not on TV, until an infamous [adult swim] short a few years ago. The very first Wonder Twins short, "Joyride", starts off with the Twins trying some surfing. The very sight of Jayna in a two-piece purple (of course) bikini is worth the price of admission alone. And snarky internet commentators like Seanbaby think the Twins were "useless"? Oh, I beg to differ!

The format called for four stories, plus health & safety and nutrition tips, magic tricks, and puzzles.

*Challenge of the Super Friends (1978-9): Enter the Legion of Doom, as Luthor, Riddler, Grodd, and a host of other DC villains would unite to plague the Justice Leaguers. The series was actually a one hour format, as a separate story aired in the first half, picking up where the previous season left off.

Oddly, H-B also produced 2 live-action primetime specials that aired not on ABC, but rather NBC, and that's something we'll discuss over in The Land of Whatever in due course.

*World's Greatest Super Friends (1979-80): The writers mined the library for literary classics to use as templates for some of the eight episodes (yes, only eight) during this season, when there should've been more. ABC clearly fumbled the ball with this decision. There were stories based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as well as homages to Robin Hood, Aladdin, and the classic Star Trek episode, "Mirror, Mirror", which sent Superman to an alternate universe where his team happen to be villains (!).

*Super Friends (2nd series)(1980-4): Still in a half-hour format, the producers opted to cram 3 short features into 30 minutes, with mixed results, averaging 8 new half-hours per year. We've posted some of the shorts on occasion.

*Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984-5): The title change was predicated by Kenner's Super Powers line of action figures. Since the Wonder Twins weren't included in the toy line, they were written out of the show after appearing in 3 episodes. Firestorm joined the team, and Adam West was brought on to be the voice of Batman (with Olan Soule moving over to play Professor Martin Stein, 1/2 of Firestorm). Not the best series in the franchise, especially with Jack Kirby's seminal galactic villain, Darkseid, saddled with the gimmick of pining away for Wonder Woman. Only a completist would want the DVD for a guilty pleasure.

*Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985-6): The end of the trail. Cyborg, one of Robin's Teen Titans teammates, joined in the final season (voiced by "Ghostbusters" co-star Ernie Hudson), and narrator Bill Woodson was phased out in favor of a more dramatic format, which worked out very well with "The Fear", which illustrated Batman's origin on TV for the first time. Some people might look at this after having seen the flirting between Batman & Wonder Woman on Justice League Unlimited and think that the roots of that angle might have started with "Fear", as the Amazing Amazon is the only other member, aside from the Dynamic Duo, in this instant classic. Not many episodes in this season, either, but I'd recommend getting this DVD before Legendary Super Powers Show.

After 13 years, ABC decided to put the franchise to rest and cancelled Galactic Guardians. Considering that the network's other H-B franchise, Scooby-Doo, was sent to the kennel in the spring of  '86, this shouldn't have been too shocking. Given the shabby treatment accorded the Twins, Samurai, Apache Chief, & Black Vulcan by [adult swim]'s staff of idiots in recent years, it would take a lot to restore some respect & dignity in a new series. WB tried paying homage on Justice League Unlimited by creating characters that were, in a sense, analogues to the above heroes (i.e. Longshadow was meant to be Apache Chief, albeit much younger).

Sadly, buying the DVD's are the only way you'll get to see these series now, as Boomerang let the rights expire and won't pony up and pay WB rights fees to bring them back, despite the pleas from a loyal fanbase. Their loss, of course.

As I've often documented, one of the faults to the writing in those days was a lack of continuity and/or characterization, often left on the backburner of priority. Today's writers might be able to do something, as long as they don't stray too far from the original source material. Why do you think fan fiction is so popular nowadays? As fans, we can let our imaginations have a template and a forum. Right now, it's the only way to relive and revisit our memories.

Saturtainment: 8 Track Flashback (1996)

In the mid-1990's, VH1 jumped feet-first onto the nostalgia bandwagon, and served up 8 Track Flashback, a half-hour series that took viewers back to the 70's & 60's, with vintage musical performances and news clips. David Cassidy (ex-The Partridge Family) was the original host, but stepped aside after 26 episodes. VH1 ultimately tried out 70's teen idol Leif Garrett and actress Suzanne Somers (ex-Three's Company) to fill the void, but after a grand total of 56 episodes, 8 Track was laid to rest. Shoot, there's no mention of its existence on VH1's Wikipedia page, proof positive that Wikipedia can't be counted on 100% of the time.

Anyway, here's a clip, sans intro, of Looking Glass performing their 1971 hit, "Brandy".



See what VH1 (& MTV) are missing by ignoring music nowadays?

Rating: A.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends vs. Dr. Fright (1977)

I think a case could be made that Dr. Fright, the villain of this Super Friends short from 1977, might have been an analogue for Batman's enemy, the Scarecrow, who'd make his H-B debut a year later in the Challenge series. Fright also used fear gas, but needed no costume. He was your garden variety misguided scientist of the period, and was never heard from again.



I should note that the Scarecrow would show up in the comic book version of the series during the winter of 1980. The only other Legion of Doom members to do so were Riddler & Cheetah (issues 1-2, pre-Challenge) and Gorilla Grodd (1979).

Rating: B+.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Spooktober: What's New Scooby-Doo? (2002)

After 11 years off network television, and bolstered by DVD sales of a series of DTV movies and the fact that reruns of earlier series were generating big ratings for Cartoon Network, Scooby-Doo made a triumphant return with What's New Scooby-Doo?, airing on Kids' WB!.

The series came 3 months after the first live-action feature film, and retained one disturbing element. Team co-leader Fred Jones (Frank Welker) was now more of a geek who marked out over certain things. The producers even paid homage to the 1972-4 New Scooby-Doo Movies by inserting guest stars when needed, such as baseball star Mike Piazza, and musicians Lindsay Pagano and Simple Plan, the latter of whom also performed the show's theme song.

The traditional format was eschewed occasionally in favor of a more traditional whodunit, which actually was a welcome relief, considering the fake monster/ghost of the week had long become cliched. By switching to a whodunit from time to time, it allowed the gang to prove they didn't need to confine themselves to debunking phony spooks all the time. Unfortunately, the whodunits came too few and too far between.

There were casting changes. With Don Messick, the original voice of Scooby, having passed on 5 years earlier, and with 2 actors having been tried in the interim, including Neil Fanning in the movie earlier in 2002, Frank Welker added to his considerable workload by essaying the dual roles of Scooby & Fred, and received star billing, along with the returning Casey Kasem (Shaggy). Also, former sitcom star Mindy Cohn (ex-The Facts of Life) came out of retirement to play Velma, and Grey DeLisle was cast as Daphne, but that change had taken effect a year earlier in "Scooby-Doo & The Cyber Chase", after her predecessor, Mary Kay Bergman, had passed away. Of course, the biggest reason why Welker & Kasem were accorded star treatment is they were the only original cast members left from the original Scooby-Doo series back in 1969.

Here's the intro:



The downside to the show airing on Kids' WB! was the fact it was pulled periodically so that the network could play extra episodes of anime such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, which was played into the ground to begin with. The constant tinkering with the lineup resulted in the series being cancelled in February 2005, more than halfway through the 3rd season. Reruns are airing this month on Boomerang.

Rating: A.

Spooktober: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Back in the day, WPIX in New York regularly filled their Sunday lunch hour with Abbott & Costello movies, preceded by either The Abbott & Costello Show or F-Troop reruns, both of which have been discussed here previously. Being that we're now three weeks plus away from Halloween, I thought we'd start discussing the duo's horror-themed movies.

In 1948, Universal decided it'd be a good time to do a genre crossover and have Bud & Lou meet three of the classic "Universal monsters" in "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein". Of course, they don't really meet Dr. Frankenstein, but rather the Monster (Glenn Strange, later of Gunsmoke). If memory serves me, this was Lon Chaney, Jr.'s last go-round as Lawrence Talbot, aka the Wolf Man (though I could be wrong).

The plot, of course is rather simplistic. Dracula (Bela Lugosi) has control of the Monster and needs a functioning human brain to place in the creature's body, making it easier for him to control. Now, who do ya think ol' Drac decided to, ah, recruit? Yup. Costello was almost always portrayed as being dumber than a bag of hammers, or, at the very least, gullible enough to fall for anything, making his character a perfect guinea pig for Dracula's brain transplant experiment. Talbot and Chick (Bud Abbott) have to save the day, but it's a hard scrabble, especially when the Wolf Man renews hostilities with his old enemies.

Unfortunately, as much as I'd prefer to have the complete film available to post, we'll settle for a trailer, provided to YouTube by horrormovieshows.........



Lest we forget, the film ends with a sort-of teaser for the team's meeting with the Invisible Man, with a voice over done by no less than Vincent Price! Another actor, however, would play the Invisible Man in the subsequent film.

Rating: B.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Scooby-Doo through the years: A Look Back

Some of you probably know that the current Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated will end after 2 seasons, the second of which is being misused by Cartoon Network, but that's another story for another time. Time, then, to take a look back at 43 years of Scooby-history.

*Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969-72, 1974-6): To think that after all these years, they originally wanted this to be a rock & roll mystery show?! It's true. The original working title was Mysteries Five, but Scooby eventually got his name thanks to a line in Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night", suggested by then-programming honcho Fred Silverman at CBS. The familiar format would serve well for years to come. Scooby became Hanna-Barbera's last icon of the 60's, and was the only one of the studio's four freshman series in 1969 to have new episodes ordered for the following season, which in those days was pretty rare for a Saturday morning cartoon from H-B. A rock soundtrack, with the theme re-recorded by Austin Roberts, was used for season 2, as H-B wanted another piece of the bubblegum rock pie, after the Banana Splits had been cancelled and the Cattanooga Cats was all reruns and downsized to a half hour for its 2nd year.

The characters' familiar personas emerged quickly. Fred (Frank Welker) was the co-leader, along with bookworm Velma (Nicole Jaffe), but was often paired with leggy Daphne, which left Velma to team with cowardly Scooby (Don Messick) and his owner, Shaggy (Casey Kasem).  We can't say for sure if teenage girls became interested in pink or purple nylons thanks to Daphne, oh by the way.

*The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-4): In answer to ABC's Saturday Superstar Movie, which H-B was contributing to, the studio was commissioned to give Scooby a hour-long series that saw various celebrities (i.e. Sandy Duncan, Tim Conway, Sonny & Cher), other cartoon characters (i.e. Batman, Josie & the Pussycats), and comedy icons (The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy) appear with the gang. Of course you know that Batman & Robin's two appearances helped lay the groundwork for Super Friends a year later, only for that franchise to go to ABC. During season 2, Scooby helped welcome Speed Buggy in much the same way that Space Ghost introduced viewers to Mightor, Shazzan, Moby Dick, & The Herculoids during his 2nd season.

And, just so you know, the appearances by the above mentioned celebrities smacked of network crossover synergy. Duncan had a couple of short sitcom runs, Conway was appearing on The Carol Burnett Show, and Sonny & Cher had their own variety series at the time, all appearing on CBS.

*The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976-7): Scooby finally followed the Dynamic Duo to ABC, and was paired with a new hero, Dynomutt, a canine parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, crossed with Batman (personified by the Blue Falcon). Mystery Inc. frequently teamed with Dyno during his half of the show, but the opposite never held true, though I think there might've been one episode that encompassed the entire hour.

*Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics (1977-9): For year 2 with Dynomutt, the series was expanded and reformatted, tucked neatly in the center of ABC's Saturday lineup, in between All-New Super Friends Hour & the returning Krofft Supershow. Continuity, as you'd figure, was tossed out the window in trying to figure out how our heroes found time to solve cases and compete in the Laff-a-Lympics, all in the course of 2 hours. Captain Caveman completed the 2 hour block, but he & Scooby would not share an adventure together until an ill-advised dream sequence in a season 1 episode of Mystery Incorporated.

*Scooby & Scrappy-Doo (1979-83): Some will say the franchise jumped the shark with the introduction of pint-sized Scrappy, and there are two schools of thought on the pug-sized nephew, who proved to be both braver & smarter than his uncle, perhaps to a fault. Season 2 saw Fred, Daphne, & Velma take a leave of absence for whatever reason, as it seemed the network felt the kids would be more comfortable with just 3 protagonists, creating a bizarre comedy act perhaps inspired by the Three Stooges.

*The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1983-5): Daphne finally returned, but save for a guest appearance in "The Nutcracker Scoob", a Christmas adventure, Fred & Velma were hardly heard from, and, oh, how fan fiction mavens have missed opportunities to reverse the usual romantic pairings, though some claim there could've been romantic overtones between Daphne and Shaggy.

*The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (September 1985-March 1986): Amazingly, the first Scooby series not to be renewed, and it didn't finish out the season! Reruns of earlier seasons, under titles like Scooby's Mystery Funhouse & Scary Scooby Funnies, helped fill open spaces on the schedule during the mid-80's, a testimony to Scooby's growing popularity. Episodes from 1969-79 were now in syndication at this point.

After nearly a full decade at ABC, Scooby finally got a vacation, as the network cleaned house in 1986. However, the great dane would return......

*A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (1987-91): For the first time, Casey Kasem & Don Messick got star billing, and a then-unknown actress, Kellie Martin, was cast as a younger Daphne. Pup is a prequel to the earlier series, purporting that the gang had been together since childhood, forming the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency early on in their careers. Kellie Martin would go on to a string of primetime successes, including Christy, Life Goes On, and a stint on ER.

For the next 7 years, there would be only reruns, as Scooby was off network television again. Cartoon Network debuted in 1992, and ultimately would be the only place to find Scooby. It got to the point where network programming nerds, obsessed with the ratings generated by the reruns, would fill every available hole in the schedule with Scooby. In 1998, Hanna-Barbera, in one of its last major projects, launched a direct-to-video movie series that continues to this day. The first film, "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island", was also the first Scooby project without Messick, who'd passed away a year earlier, and without Kasem, who had left. He wanted Shaggy to adopt a vegan lifestyle to mirror his own, it seems. However, despite getting a current A-list voice actor to succeed Kasem in Billy West (Futurama), it just didn't seem right. They also failed in casting Scooby. Scott Innes essayed the role in the first four films, and doubled as Shaggy beginning with 1999's "Scooby-Doo & The Witch's Ghost". In "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders", Innes, as Shaggy, performs a musical number, which might've been the only advantage he ever had on "Mr. Top 40", as Kasem, who recorded some vocals for the 1976 series' theme song, was not exactly rock star material himself. However, Innes might not have struck enough chords with fans.......

*What's New Scooby-Doo? (September 2002-February 2005): After 11 years off network television, Scooby returned, this time on Kids' WB!. Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy, and Frank Welker now essayed a dual role as Fred & Scooby, something that some might think should've been a no-brainer four years earlier, given that Welker, now a pre-eminent expert on animal voices, might have been a protege of Don Messick's for all those years. Granted, Neil Fanning, who voiced Scooby in 2 live-action features, the first of which preceded What's New by 3 months, wasn't too bad, but....!

The Canadian rock group Simple Plan recorded the show's theme song, and the producers marked the 30th anniversary of the movie series by casting the occasional guest stars, including Simple Plan and baseball star Mike Piazza, then with the New York Mets. However, carrying over from the live-action "Scooby-Doo" was the dumbing down of Fred, who now was a fanboy who marked out meeting people he'd read about and admired. It would only get worse. They also did a callback to the Scooby/Shaggy/Scrappy era, minus Scrappy, in an episode where Scooby & Shaggy were working with some younger kids at a camp that was supposedly haunted. What a shock.

*Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue (2006-8): Flash animation just didn't work right, and the producers obviously didn't learn thing one about leaving Fred, Daphne, & Velma behind. Scott Menville took over as Shaggy, but unlike the previous series, where Kasem & Welker got star billing, no such case here. There was an ongoing storyline, negated by the lame notion of nanite-infused Scooby Snacks giving Scoob some superpowers. I'd say it would be the worst incarnation of the franchise......

*Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010-present): Cartoon Network fumbled this one real bad.

For starters, head writer and producer Mitch Watson decided to reboot the franchise from scratch for a new audience. Problem was, he messed with the formula big time, deciding that Fred was kidnapped as a baby from his "real" parents, and that the Mayor of the gang's hometown, Crystal Cove (as opposed to Coolsville in traditional canon), was a corrupt, money hungry weasel. CN ran the first half of season 2 over 3 weeks this summer, in the afternoon, because they were so slow in putting the show back on the air. Watson was trying to be all things to all people, including playing to fan fiction fans online by playing up not only the predictable Fred-Daphne romance, but also a pro tempore Shaggy & Velma coupling. Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the 2 theatrical features, and even interacted with the ol' Shagster (as voiced then by Casey Kasem) & Scooby in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", succeeded Kasem, apparently getting the seal of approval from the radio legend, who now plays Shaggy's disapproving father.

The fact that the gang's respective parents disapproved of their interests in mysteries (and Fred's new obsession with building traps, making him even more of a geek than previously imaginable) bothered me. So, too, did Watson's royal mishandling of the Funky Phantom. While he's attempting to gather as much H-B history together in one box by creating a whole H-B Universe in homage to the studio's founders, and I admire his initiative, he needs to take into account that it shouldn't just be one fan's perspective (his), but taking also into account 40+ years of history encompassing Scooby's run, and how all fans might perceive it. He might have the seal of approval from creators Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, but he has alienated more than a few people. Unfortunately, with production ending on this series, Watson's next project may be cause for much cringing. He's reportedly on board for Beware the Batman, due next year. Let's see if he gets it right this time.

I am not sure what the future holds for Scooby after Mystery Incorporated ends its run, but, trust me, it has to be better than it is now.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturtainment: Where On Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (1994)

Yesterday, we reviewed PBS' Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. Running concurrently with the final season of the game show was a mostly animated adventure series, produced by DIC for Fox, Where On Earth is Carmen Sandiego?.

The format more closely resembles the computer program the game show, and the cartoon, were based on. The Chief, in this series, is a disembodied male head (Roger Bumpass), giving instructions to two regular teenage detectives trying to capture Carmen (Rita Moreno, ex-The Electric Company). Being that this was on Fox, the cartoon wasn't confined to Saturdays, as it also aired on certain weekdays.

Here's the open:



I am not certain who has the rights to the series these days, but this much I do know. It ended after two seasons. Way too soon for this critic's taste.

Rating: A.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Game Time: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1991)

PBS rarely has game shows. They're often spoofed, instead, on some shows, like Sesame Street. In 1991, however, the Public Broadcasting Service decided to try something new.

Based on a computer game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? enjoyed a healthy four year run before ending in 1995. Reruns would continue for another year before a follow-up series, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, would take its place.

Carmen, according to the storyline, is a master thief who, along with her various henchmen, is wanted for crimes across the globe. The ACME Detective Agency, headed by the Chief (Lynne Thigpen) and a special agent in charge of recruiting (series host Greg Lee), calls upon a trio of detective recruits (contestants) each day to solve a case in a quiz show format. It seems so ironic, then, that GameShowNetwork, a YouTube poster who may not be affiliated with GSN after all, uploaded the following episode......



Carmen would eventually make her way to Saturday mornings and in animated form, in a short-lived series for Fox later in the decade, with Carmen voiced by show business icon Rita Moreno (ex-The Electric Company). Eventually, we'll get to that series.....

Rating: A.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

You Know the Voice: Gary Owens, game show host? (Yup!)(1969)

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was so hot, NBC suits decided to spin off a daytime game show. Unfortunately, given the flexible scheduling of the day, Letters to Laugh-In lasted just three months in 1969.

Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens (ex-Space Ghost) was host and announcer for this show, and his self-introduction is worth the price of admission alone. It took almost a decade before Owens would be given another chance, and it was to MC the evening version of maverick producer Chuck Barris' iconic Gong Show.

Anyway, since it was common practice back in the day for networks to erase entire series to reuse the videotapes (!), it's very rare to find any footage from this program. Shoot, I'd be happy if they dug up an actual episode of Ed McMahon's Snap Judgment, but that's for another time. Here, then, is Letters to Laugh-In. Bear in mind that panelist and Laugh-In regular Jo Anne Worley would venture into voice work herself a number of years later (Disney's Wuzzles).

On the Air: Seriously Funny Kids (2011)

The other day, I was doing some channel surfing before leaving for church services. I happened across the Lifetime Real Women channel and found something that reminded me of the legacy of the late entertainer Art Linkletter.

Back in the day, Linkletter had a daytime show, House Party, which had a regular feature, Kids Say The Darndest Things, which was finally spun off into its own series in the 90's, first on CBS, and then on Nickelodeon, hosted by Bill Cosby. Today, Lifetime has the spiritual successor, if you will, in Seriously Funny Kids, which debuted last year, and reruns are currently airing on Sunday mornings on LRW.

Seriously serves as a secondary vehicle for supermodel-turned-reality-show-host Heidi Klum (Project Runway), but the focus is on the little children she talks to. Take for example this offering, featuring a 6 year old drumming prodigy who started playing at 3 months.

Uploaded by littledrummerbaby.



Somewhere up there, Linkletter is smiling.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spooktober: Chiller Theatre (1961)

If you live or have lived in New York City, chances are pretty good you're familiar with Chiller Theatre, which aired on & off on WPIX between 1961 & 1982. At the end of its run, Chiller, which usually aired in late night or primetime, moved to Saturday afternoons, which qualifies it to be in the Archives.

Chiller originally had an on-air host in Zacherle, "The Cool Ghoul", but he left after a couple of years and was not replaced. Instead, a montage of vintage clips was used to open the program. After a couple of variations, Rankin-Bass was commissioned to produce the now-iconic, six-fingered claymation hand that emerged from the swamp, and was used as the open beginning in 1971.

Wait a minute, you're saying. Rankin-freakin'-Bass?! The people who made all those Christmas specials? Yep. I gotta tell ya. I was a little stunned when I found out about it myself. Rankin-Bass had brought stop-motion animation (Animagic) to television, and now they were experimenting with claymation, which Art Clokey had introduced via Gumby & Davey and Goliath back in the 60's. Who'dathunk?

And, so, dear hearts, be not faint, 'cause here comes that hand, rising from the swamps.......



Everyone has their favorite movies that have aired on Chiller Theatre, which, as it turns out, was not an exclusive title to WPIX. There were other stations across the country with a similar package, but I doubt they had the hand.......

Rating: B.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spooktober: The Munsters Today (1988)

The Munsters Today isn't quite as beloved as the original Munsters, and, as you'll see in the following episode, it's pretty easy to see why.

What the producers sought to do was transplant some of the gags and plot ideas from that other horror-com of the 60's, The Addams Family, but it just didn't seem right. Despite this, Munsters Today outlasted its predecessor, as it lasted three seasons to the original series' two. Go figure.

Casting wasn't really the problem. TV veteran John Schuck (ex-McMillian & Wife), who'd gained some semblance of cred in genre TV with the short-lived Holmes & YoYo in the 70's, was asked to fill Fred Gwynne's rather large shoes as Herman. Lee Meriweather (ex-Barnaby Jones) played Lily. Jason Marsden, better known now as a voice actor, was cast as Eddie, who for some reason had lost some of his werewolf appearance. Producer Lloyd J. Schwartz, son of sitcom legend Sherwood Schwartz, brought some cred to the show, but this episode's director, Peter Isacksen, is still better known for his lone starring credit, acting opposite Don Rickles in CPO Sharkey (Isacksen was the towering Seaman Pruitt).

Dean Jobling uploaded the episode, "Eau de Munster":



As memory serves me, this show aired on Sunday mornings in New York (WWOR) and Albany (WXXA) for the entirety of its run, which is how it gets into the Archives. Unfortunately, it's largely been forgotten since leaving the air in 1991.

Rating: C-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog (1998)

After mining Japanese fantasy series for a few years, Haim Saban decided to try to create an original, made-in-the-USA series for Fox. Unfortunately, The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog pretty much followed the familiar formula established with the Power Rangers franchise in that there was one steady villain for the Knights to battle week after week. The series was cancelled after 1 year, a rare failure for Saban, even though a second season had been planned but never aired.

Here's the open.



Rating: None. Never saw the show.