Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Literary Toons: The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1988)

A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh had starred in a series of primetime specials from the 60's through the early 80's. Some of the earliest ones had been narrated by actor Sebastian Cabot (Checkmate, Family Affair). In the late 80's, Disney decided it was time for Pooh to branch out, shall we say, and into a weekly series.

The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh bowed on Disney Channel in January 1988, and was picked up for broadcast television by ABC later that same year. The series' initial run lasted three years on ABC (1988-91), but the show was later brought back to fill some space and stuck around until 2002, largely because Winnie was still a marketable brand. Cable reruns continued until the last decade, and now the series rests in Disney's vaults. There was a separate series, Welcome to Pooh Corner, aimed squarely at preschoolers, that aired on Disney Channel as well, as recently as a few years ago.

Jim Cummings inherited the title role of Pooh, after Sterling Holloway had essayed the part in the primetime specials, and would later succeed the inestimable Paul Winchell as Tigger, though Winchell would later return for a couple of specials.

Here's the intro:

Rating; A.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000)

The success of the movie "Toy Story" led to one of its central characters being spun off into his own TV series. Unfortunately, all it proved was that Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, despite being in a setting more to his liking, wasn't a hit without Woody, Mr. Potato Head, and the rest of the toys in Andy's room.

The series spent just 1 year on ABC, 2 on UPN, as it aired concurrently on both networks for the first year. While Tim Allen (most recently on ABC's Last Man Standing) reprised his role from "Toy Story" as Buzz in the opening pilot movie, he gave way to Patrick Warburton (currently on Rules of Engagement) for the rest of the series. Otherwise, Disney filled the cast with plenty of star power, including the likes of Jon Favreau, John O'Hurley, and Wayne Knight. Even though ABC was available in more homes than UPN, they opted not to renew Buzz, who now languishes in the Disney vaults.

Here's the open, with narration by Gary Owens:

Co-producers Bob Schooley & Mark MacCorkindale would bounce back a couple of years later with Kim Possible, and we all know how well that turned out.

Rating: None. Didn't watch the show enough to merit a rating.

Maybe now Cartoon Network gets the message: Incredible Crew is cancelled, leaving live-action on [adult swim] only......for now

Variety reports that Cartoon Network has pulled the plug on their youth-oriented sketch comedy series, Incredible Crew, after just 1 season, the latest failure in the current network administration's continuing effort to emulate rivals Nickelodeon & Disney Channel in developing live-action programming, which, of course, goes against the definition of the network when it was launched 21 years ago.

Incredible Crew was the brainchild of one of the busiest men in show business today, former Nickelodeon star Nick Cannon, currently the host of NBC's America's Got Talent. Cannon knows something about sketch comedy, having debuted on Nick's All That in the 90's. It seems that Cannon, who also at last check was involved in programming Nickelodeon's sister network, TeenNick, and had developed & hosted Wild 'N' Out for MTV, was trying to do some emulating of his own, in this case, another ultra-busy TV personality, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who apparently needs to have a 30 hour day with all of his radio & TV responsibilities.

I digress. While the article doesn't say why the Crew was cancelled, it does continue a pattern at the network, which has developed a number of live-action series over the last 7 years, only to see them all fail. The only live action programming still on CN is on their [adult swim] overnight block (i.e. Children's Hospital), which seems to be a different animal altogether.

The problem that exists, which executives Stuart Snyder & Rob Sorcher refuse to acknowledge, is that viewers don't want live-action on Cartoon Network. However, even though reruns of Family Guy have been shared between [adult swim] & sister network TBS, the latter wasn't interested in getting back into children's programming. The corporate mentality at Time-Warner seems to be, we've got Cartoon Network for the kids, so why put children's programming on our other stations?

Real swift, no? Of course not. CN has been used as a receptacle to air live-action, non-cartoon-related movies (i.e. Jack Black's "School of Rock") in order to help its sister networks fulfill pre-existing contracts. So why can't the repurposing go the other way once in a while? Only Snyder & Sorcher know the answer to that one, and they're not telling.

A few years back, CN tried an all-live-action primetime block, under the umbrella of "CN Real". Other than Dude! What Would Happen & Destroy Build Destroy, the block was a failure. They've tried a sitcom (Out of Jimmy's Head, which was a hybrid---1/2-live-action, 1/2-cartoon) and 2 1 hour adventure series (Unnatural History & Tower Prep), all of which were cancelled after 1 season. While it hasn't been confirmed, it doesn't appear as though the half-hour Level Up, which has gotten through 2 seasons, will be returning, either.

What this says to me is that the fanbase has spoken loudly enough to convince Time Warner higher-ups to stop shoving live-action into the CN schedule. There is room for greater diversification, but preferably, if to give some aid to sister network Boomerang, which could use the help. Live-action need not apply.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Animated World of DC Comics: Who is Captain Mystery? (1984)

From Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show:

It's bad enough that Lex Luthor (Stan Jones) was embarrassed when, after shrinking Robin, Firestorm, & the Wonder Twins, they turned the tables on him, now he has to deal with a neophyte who yearns to join the Super Friends.

Captain Mystery is a well-meaning fanboy whose bumbling enables the 1-shot villain Robber Baron to escape from Batman & Robin (Adam West & Casey Kasem). He then tries to get Firestorm to help him track the Baron, but is unaware that Luthor has drawn a bead on him.

In hindsight, if he were given a choice, I would think Luthor would consider retiring after this one.........

Rating: B.

Toons After Dark: Fish Police (1991)

In the early 90's, Hanna-Barbera experimented with a return to primetime television, but found out that they still hadn't been able to duplicate the success of The Flintstones' initial night run (1960-6). That evergreen series was revived and given a 2nd run in primetime, albeit briefly, in 1980, to complement its then-current Saturday morning incarnation. But, every series the studio had made for primetime consumption, from 1961 (Top Cat) forward went just one season. The novelty had worn off.

It was the success of Fox's The Simpsons which spurred H-B to try again. The studio sold a pair of series, one each to CBS & ABC, the latter of whom was their business partner in primetime in the 60's. Unfortunately, the trend remained intact.

Fish Police, which went to CBS, was adapted from a comic book series created by writer-artist Steve Moncuse for Comico a few years earlier. It was enough of a hit that it merited the attention of television, but it wasn't meant to be kid-friendly, hence nabbing a spot in primetime. Hanna-Barbera put together a quality cast, including 70's icon John Ritter as Inspector Gill, the central character in the series. Ritter also narrated each tale. Predictably, viewers turned away as the novelty wore off, and, after a run on Cartoon Network in the late 90's, hasn't been seen since. To be honest with you, I think what holds this series back from returning may be a rights issue, meaning it depends on who owns the show now, either Warner Bros. or Moncuse.

Anyway, here's the opener, "The Shell Game":

Sad to say, I never got to see the show, so I can't rightfully rate it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday School: The Magic School Bus (1994)

Nearly 20 years after its debut, The Magic School Bus is still rolling in reruns, and why not?

Based on a series of children's books about science, The Magic School Bus bowed on PBS in 1994, and lasted through 4 13-episode "seasons", ending in 1997. Produced by Canada's Nelvana Studios, Magic stars Emmy winner Lily Tomlin (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) as science teacher Valerie Frizzle, who takes her class on bizarre but educational field trips. In the course of the last 19 years, the Bus has also aired on TLC, Fox, & NBC, among other places. Rock legend Little Richard recorded the show's kickin' theme song, which may be the most restrained he's ever been when singing, except maybe in church.

Anyway, Tomlin was able to lure some of her Hollywood friends, including Michael York, Sherman Hemsley, Ed Begley, Jr., Robby Benson, and singers Dolly Parton & Wynonna Judd, as guest stars during the series' 3 year run. Pretty good, eh?

Following is the season 3 opener, "In a Beehive".

Some have compared this show to Filmation's 1973 series, Mission: Magic, but aside from the rock theme, and celebrity casting, there is no comparison.

Rating: A.

From Comics To Toons: Popeye's High School Daze (1979)

ClassicVHSArchive presents this offering from season 2 of The All-New Popeye Hour.

Retconning is the theme here, as Popeye (Jack Mercer) & Olive (Marilyn Schreffler) flash back to the 50's when they, along with Bluto (Allan Melvin) & Wimpy, were all in high school.


The idea, obviously, is to parody "Grease", complete with an analogue for American Bandstand. However, the producers were a little too cheap to hire actors to voice the younger versions of the characters. Like, didja really think Popeye always had that pipe in his mouth and fractured the English language? Of course not. The other mistake here, in "Popeye's High School Daze", is that while Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy are all younger (and Popeye has a full head of hair), Bluto isn't, as he looks the same as a teenager as he does as an adult. That kills the vibe, cats.

Yeah, there's also a little nod to "Rebel Without a Cause" in there, early on. However, there wasn't enough imagination in the writing, and that's what hurts this story.

Rating: C. Not one of Popeye's best from his Hanna-Barbera run.

Reinventing the wheel, or, how some primetime shows tried to continue as cartoons

As we all know, Hanna-Barbera used The Honeymooners & You'll Never Get Rich (The Phil Silvers Show, aka Sgt. Bilko) as templates for two of their primetime entries in the 60's, The Flintstones & Top Cat, respectively. The failure of Top Cat brought about not an end to that formula, but a little tweaking, as the studio would use movies as templates for later series (i.e. Wacky Races, which evolved from "The Great Race").

In the 70's, they would return to the formula, using All In The Family as a touchstone for the syndicated Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home, which lasted two years, and The Waltons for These Are The Days, which failed after 1 season. Meanwhile, rival Filmation went in a different direction, opting to "continue" some shows that had already been cancelled in animated form. It didn't always work.

The first such case was Star Trek, which finished its original 5 year mission with 21 new episodes, spread out over 2 seasons (1973-5). As such, it was the first series the studio sold to NBC, and by far its most popular. It was the 2nd collaboration between Filmation & Paramount, as the first, The Brady Kids, an animated spin-off from The Brady Bunch, was in its 2nd & final season on ABC. Unfortunately, save for brief cable runs on Sci-Fi (now SyFy) & TV Land in the 90's, the animated Trek hasn't seen the light of day in years, while the live action version has thrived in syndication seemingly forever. Try figuring that one out.

After Brady Kids was cancelled, creator-producer Sherwood Schwartz replaced it with an earlier property for ABC, resulting in The New Adventures of Gilligan, which, some might argue, would constitute Season 4 of Gilligan's Island, since the setting was the same, and the cast was retained, save for Tina Louise, who'd distanced herself from the franchise, and Dawn Wells (other commitments). Eight years later, Filmation & Schwartz would try again with Gilligan's Planet, which was just a reboot of the earlier series, and a bad one at that, as I've been told. In between, of course, the castaways had returned home, then relocated to their island, turning it into a tourist attraction in 3 TV-movies for NBC, produced between 1979-82 (And produced by Universal, which had 0 to do with the original series. Go figure.), so the original concept really wouldn't be feasible anymore. Planet would also be Schwartz's last Saturday morning entry.

By the same token, that same year (1974), H-B tried to keep The Partridge Family in play, even though the series had been cancelled by ABC. CBS picked up Partridge Family 2200 AD after rejecting Joe Barbera's pitch for a Jetsons update that would've been along the same line as Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm 3 years earlier, with Elroy & Judy now older. Since Pebbles didn't get ratings along the level of, say, stablemate Scooby-Doo, the show was cancelled, then reworked into the Flintstone Comedy Hour as a last-ditch effort to keep the teenage version of the title characters in play.

Suffice to say, without lead players David Cassidy & Shirley Jones, the futuristic Partridges bombed.

Back to Filmation. In the same year that they picked up Star Trek, the studio also acquired licenses for two other properties. Neither worked.

My Favorite Martians may have been meant to be a continuance of the original My Favorite Martian, although there was now a 2nd Martian (Lane Scheimer) joining Uncle Martin (Jonathan Harris, ex-Lost In Space, taking over for Ray Walston). Not all the affiliates picked up the show, as in those days, stations could cherry pick what shows they wanted to bump for local/syndicated programming. Over at ABC, Lassie's Rescue Rangers also got one season and no more, despite the concept of the collie forming an animal team to back up some forest rangers. Nice idea, but it may've been poor writing that doomed this show.

It seemed as though that was it, after New Adventures of Gilligan was axed by ABC, but in 1982, Ruby-Spears got in on the act. With 2 of the network's hit comedies having already spawned animated counterparts, they landed the license for Mork & Mindy in what amounted to a pseudo-prequel, sending the title characters (Robin Williams & Pam Dawber) to high school, and trying to retcon Mork as having landed on Earth while future wife Mindy was in high school. This, suffice it to say, was worse than Gilligan's Planet, which came out the same year. Both were gone at the end of the season.

Other celebrity toons were simply direct spin-offs from their "parent" shows. To wit:

*The Brady Kids (1972-4, ABC/Filmation/Paramount).
*Emergency Plus-4 (1973-5, NBC/Mark VII/Universal/Fred Calvert Productions).
*The Addams Family (1973-4, NBC; 1991-3, ABC). Hanna-Barbera produced both versions, the first more a direct spin-off from the Addamses' appearance on The New Scooby-Doo Movies over on CBS the previous year. The 2nd series came about after the 1991 movie with Raul Julia & Christopher Lloyd was a huge hit.

*Fonz & the Happy Days Gang (1980-2, ABC/Hanna-Barbera/Paramount).
*Laverne & Shirley in the Army (1981-3, ABC/Hanna-Barbera/Paramount; Fonzie (Henry Winkler) was added in season 2 without any closure to his own toon.).
*The Gary Coleman Show (1983-4, NBC/Hanna-Barbera). Spun off from the TV-movie, The Kid With the Golden Halo.
*The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (1989-90, NBC/Hanna-Barbera). Spun off from SCTV, which was airing on NBC at the time.

So, the average lifespan would be 1-2 years. It would be worth noting that Mr. T, which got 3 years (1983-6) on NBC wasn't a direct spin-off from The A-Team, as T was recast as a gymnastics coach whose charges also solved mysteries. Likewise, Swamp Thing, a miniseries that aired on Fox & NBC, wasn't directly connected with the live-action series on USA Network. Finally, Sabrina: The Animated Series, which aired on ABC from 1999-2001, is considered a prequel to the live-action Sabrina that was on the network at the time.

With the broadcast networks having all but abandoned animation, with news that Litton, which programs ABC's syndication-friendly, all live-action block, now adding CBS to their client list for the fall, would cablers like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, or Cartoon Network, take a chance? Should they? I can think of a few recent series that could stand being rebooted as toons, under the right circumstances and situations. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tooniversary: The Slaver Weapon (1973)

Here's a Star Trek rarity. An episode without Captain Kirk (William Shatner).

No, this time around, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) takes point (and narrates) in the episode, "The Slaver Weapon". Acclaimed science fiction author Larry Niven adapted his own original story for television.

Scope the trailer:

This was the only time in 5 seasons (3 live-action, 2 animated) that Kirk was not in the story. Amazing, isn't it?

I believe Leonard Nimoy was still working on another Paramount series, Mission: Impossible, while reprising as Spock. Have to check and verify.

Regrettably, the poster didn't include opening & closing credits. Oh, well, can't have everything.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Gypsy Girl (1974)

The Partridge Family had ended its run on ABC after 4 seasons, but someone at Columbia Pictures Television (formerly Screen Gems, now Sony Pictures Television) decided there was potential in converting the series to cartoon form. Apparently, that nameless executive, and counterparts at CBS, were the only ones interested, because Partridge Family 2200 AD , one of two Hanna-Barbera freshman series sold to CBS in 1974 (Valley of the Dinosaurs was the other), was cancelled after 1 season, only to return, rechristened The Partridge Family in Outer Space when reruns aired 3 years later on Fred Flintstone & Friends.

Not all of the cast returned for the cartoon. In fact, Susan Dey (Laurie) left the show after 2 weeks, forcing the producers to call on Sherry Alberoni (Super Friends, ex-Josie & the Pussycats) to take her place, while Suzanne Crough, Brian Forster, & Danny Bonaduce soldiered on for the full run. Those three, along with Dey, had joiued the cast of Goober & the Ghost Chasers over on ABC the previous season when ABC decided that series needed a boost. Didn't work.

Chuck McClendon took over for David Cassidy as Keith, and also sings lead on "Gypsy Girl", the only musical number from the series currently available on YouTube. Judge for yourselves, kids.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Want Ads (1971)

SweetGeorgiaPeache brings us this Soul Train classic from the Honey Cone, with their one-hit wonder (as far as the Hot 100 was concerned), "Want Ads".

Tooniversary: Jeannie (1973)

I Dream of Jeannie was thriving in syndication when someone at Hanna-Barbera decided to remold Jeannie into a teenage genie. Sad to say, the result was less than magical.

Jeannie lasted one season, and as memory serves, it didn't air initially in my market, as the local CBS affiliate opted to black out the show in favor of reruns of Popeye or Mr. Magoo, both of whom would eventually get series on CBS, or even some Looney Tunes that weren't airing on ABC (which was home to Bugs Bunny at the time).

Fractaljinn2 uploaded this episode of Jeannie. Time displacement is the name of the game when "Helen of Troy" crosses paths with Jeannie (Julie McWhirter) and her apprentice, Babu (Joe Besser, ex-The Abbott & Costello Show).

Babu would later resurface, sans Jeannie and her master, Corey (Mark Hamill), four years later, on Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics. Joe Besser's final contribution to Hanna-Barbera came a year after that, as the voice of Scare Bear, a member of Yogi Bear's Galaxy Goof-Ups, on Yogi's Space Race.

I think I had seen this in serial format on Fred Flintstone & Friends. It was the only way I'd get to see this show, by the way. Also, the title song is sung by Mark Hamill in character as Corey. Golden throat territory, methinks.

Rating: B.

A Krofft Khronology: From Puppets to Dinosaurs to Bigfoot......

Sid & Marty Krofft wanted to be major players in the Saturday morning landscape, but it only lasted but a decade. How, you ask, could that have happened so quickly? Well, for one thing, you could chalk it up to the fickle tastes of viewers and/or network executives. Then again.........

The Kroffts made their first inroads in television when their puppets were used on The Dean Martin Show. However, they didn't survive the season, as the Kroffts were dismissed for the simple crime of upstaging the star. Considering that Martin was phobic about rehearsing, maybe he just didn't want to be embarrassed by someone other than his guests.

As most of you know, the next stop was Hanna-Barbera, where the Kroffts designed some of the characters, including the main ones, on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The success of that series prompted the Kroffts to open their own studio, and thus, a checklist of their series history:

*H. R. Pufnstuf (NBC 1969-72, ABC 1972-3): For years, the Kroffts have had to fight off claims that the designs for the Living Island were rooted in drugs. Why not just chalk it up to a vivid imagination, and leave it at that? Haters have to hate, I suppose. British actor-singer Jack Wild ("Oliver!") landed the starring role as Jimmy, washed up on the island with a talking flute named Freddy. Pufnstuf (voiced by Len Weinrib) was the Mayor, who had to fend off Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), who coveted not only control of the island, but Freddy, too. Universal released a feature film version, released in 1970.

What some of you may not know is that the Kroffts successfully sued McDonald's when the restaurant giant created the characters of Mayor McCheese & Big Mac, and the concept of McDonaldLand was too close to that of the Living Island, which is why McDonaldLand was quickly phased out, though the characters lingered at least through the 70's.

*The Bugaloos (NBC 1970-2): The Kroffts' next contribution to the bubblegum pop sweepstakes was another musical act imported from England. Stage & screen star Martha Raye was cast as evil Benita Bizarre, whose vanity fueled her jealous rage against the band. Billy Barty began his long association with the Kroffts as Sparky the Firefly, who became the Bugaloos' mascot/sidekick.

*Lidsville (ABC 1971-3, NBC 1973-4): Sentient hat-people? Yup. Butch Patrick (ex-The Munsters) plays a curious teen who falls into a magician's hat and ends up in another world lorded over by the wizard HooDoo (Charles Nelson Reilly, ex-Ghost & Mrs. Muir). Reilly was also the magician seen in the opening credits, without makeup. With production on Pufnstuf long ended, Billie Hayes was cast as Weenie, a good genie. Hayes actually pulled double duty in one episode due to a crossover with Pufnstuf, reprising as Witchiepoo.

*Sigmund & the Sea Monsters (NBC 1973-6): Johnny Whitaker (ex-Family Affair) toplined this series, with Billy Barty in the title role as Sigmund, an ostracized sea monster. Mary Wickes (ex-Dennis The Menace) & Rip Taylor would join the show in season 2.

*Land of the Lost (NBC 1974-7, ABC 1991-3): Easily the most successful Krofft property, as it was not only remade nearly 20 years after its initial launch, but later became a less-than-successful feature film. Soap star Wesley Eure (Days of Our Lives) became a teen idol as a result. However, the mix of videotape and film didn't work so well. The series was revived in 1991 on ABC with Timothy Bottoms toplining, this time on film, and both versions are fondly remembered by fans.

*Far Out Space Nuts (CBS 1975-6): TV icons Bob Denver (ex-Gilligan's Island) & Chuck McCann (who also co-created the series) co-star in this madcap comedy about two NASA janitors lost in space.

*Lost Saucer (ABC 1975-6): Ruth Buzzi (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) & Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle, USMC) are two androids from another time who arrive in 1975, pick up a boy and his babysitter (Jarrod Johnson, Alice Playten), but end up also getting lost.

*Krofft Supershow (ABC 1976-8): 8 months after breaking into primetime again with Donny & Marie, the Kroffts tried an anthology series built around a pre-fab band that was a glam band one year, then a straight pop-rock group the next. Kaptain Kool & the Kongs did have some legitimate musical pedigree, as 3/5 of the group were professional musicians, including actress Debra Clinger. As for the individual segments:

**Electra Woman & Dynagirl: Diedre Hall (Days of Our Lives) & Judy Strangis as a female knockoff of Batman & Robin.

**Wonderbug: A dilapidated dune buggy gets a magic horn and becomes a wonder car. Cheesy special effects didn't stop it from being held over for season 2.

**Dr. Shrinker: A knockoff of "Dr. Cyclops" sees a mad scientist (Jay Robinson) shrink survivors of a plane crash in the hopes of selling them to a foreign power. Also stars Billy Barty, Ted Eccles, & Jeff MacKay.

**Magic Mongo (replaced Dr. Shrinker): Len Weinrib makes a rare on-camera role as a bumbling genie in a clear knockoff of I Dream of Jeannie.

**Bigfoot & Wildboy (replaced Electra Woman): Filmed instead of taped, Bigfoot (Ray Young) was posited as a superhero. Spun off into its own series after Supershow ended, and became a mid-season replacement in 1979.

*The Krofft Superstar Hour, aka The Bay City Rollers Show (NBC 1978-9): The Kongs, or more specifically, Louise DuArt & Mickey McMeel, were regulars on this show, while Debra Clinger & Michael Lembeck made guest appearances while doing primetime shows. After 2 months, the format was tweaked and the Rollers became the stars. Didn't matter, as the show was cancelled at the end of the season. It would be the last Saturday morning series the Kroffts would sell to NBC.

*Pryor's Place (CBS 1984-5): Comedian Richard Pryor was tapped to fill the void created by the cancellation of Bill Cosby's award-winning Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, and Cosby's return to NBC and primetime. Unfortunately, CBS buried the show in the lunch hour death slot.

The Kroffts would turn their attention back to primetime after the 1978-9 season. I've reviewed Pink Lady and Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters over in The Land of Whatever, which is where we'll take a look at the Kroffts' other night ventures down the road.

You have to understand that back in those days, renewing children's shows didn't mean making new episodes. Networks picked what they felt was the best of the lot, and, to save money, opted to recycle the reruns for another year, maybe two. Down the line, we'll re-examine each of these series and see if something could've been done to legitimately renew them for new episodes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tooniversary: My Dad The Rock Star (2003)

KISS bassist-vocalist Gene Simmons created My Dad The Rock Star for Nickelodeon and Canada's Nelvana Studios, and served as the show's executive producer. Sad to say, that was the extent of Simmons' involvement with the series, which lasted a year (26 episodes) before being cancelled.

Rock Zilla was based on Simmons himself, though no one's sure if the same can be said for Rock's kids being analogues for Simmons' own children. While the Simmons family has since gone before the cameras in the reality series, Gene Simmons' Family Jewels, Simmons' 1st series didn't exactly set the world on fire. The animation may be to blame, as Nelvana's production values had dropped by this point. If you don't believe me, check out the open:

Because it aired on Nick, the show aired on various days, so, predictably, Nick burned the show off and out too quickly to suit us older fans. Believe me, you might be better served finding a DVD of "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park" to rent.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Game Time: Brains & Brawn (1993)

It seemed almost inevitable that NBC would try another Saturday morning game show, and they did, in the summer of 1993.

Brains & Brawn shares its title with a similarly themed quiz show that NBC aired in 1958. This time, though, this was a means of promoting the network's "Teen TV" lineup. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved By The Bell) served as MC. The series only lasted three months, and hasn't been attempted since.

Part of the reason it didn't do too well the 2nd time around was its air time. Brains was slotted at 12 noon (ET), where a lot of shows go to die. The NBC affiliate in my market was inconsistent with the schedule, and didn't air the show right away. Yeah, that's a killer. Apparently, Bell wasn't that big in upstate NY.

Of course, you know, Gosselaar has had one acting gig after another since, as he moved directly to Bell's primetime spinoff, The College Years, which lasted just as long, and currently stars in TNT's Franklin & Bash. Following is a sample clip from an episode featuring cast members from California Dreams:

NBC's track record with Saturday game shows remained intact. Pretty bad. Rating: B.

Sunday Funnies: Malibu CA (1998)

For all intents & purposes, Peter Engel was the linchpin of NBC's Saturday morning lineup for most of the 90's. His premier franchise, Saved By The Bell, was limping along toward the finish line for the New Class, and Engel would have at least 2-3 other shows supporting Bell on the schedule.

However, there were a couple of series that Engel didn't sell to NBC that probably would've had the same lifespan if they did.

USA High was in a sense Bell with more of an international flavor, and aired Friday afternoons on USA (Duh!) for about a year or two. For his next trick, Engel finally landed a first-run syndicated series. That was the good news. The bad? It lasted two seasons.

Malibu CA aired on Sundays in most markets, including mine. Essentially, Engel took this idea from a slate of Bell episodes set at a time when the original class worked summer jobs at a Malibu country club. Engel didn't go back to Malibu Shores for this show, though. Instead, it's about twin brothers who relocate to California to be with their father after his ex-wife (the boys' mother)  takes a job in Saudi Arabia. Fine idea, but because it wasn't on a network, and despite the heavy promotion, it was doomed to failure.

Here's the open:

No rating. Never saw the show.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Animated World of DC Comics: Can a superhero really be fired? (2013)

To illustrate how absurd, if not outright stupid, Teen Titans GO! can be at any given time, we give you "Exhibit A", or, "You're Fired!".

The plot, such as it is: Beast Boy's hesitation on a mission leads to his dismissal and a satire on talent shows follows. Producers Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath are insulting the intelligence of older fans, while trying to impress younger viewers who've no past experience with the Titans. The sudden appearance of a rep from the "Human Resources" department stretches the bounds of credibility way too thin.

Anyway, see for yourself. For the record, Tara Strong (Raven) & Khary Payton (Cyborg) double up (pun intended) as the voices of the Wonder Twins, whom I doubt we'll see again in this series after this embarrassment.

Right now, let's scope out the audition phase:

Totally unfunny. Rating: D-.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Jingle Jangle (1969)

From The Archie Comedy Hour comes what would be the Archies' last single, "Jingle Jangle". According to Windsorbear, who uploaded this track to YouTube, "Jingle" was also used for a primetime special and on The Ed Sullivan Show, both in 1970. This video was taken from a Ed Sullivan tape.

You might recognize the opening melody as background music for a number of Archie shorts during this period.

Toonfomercial: And, now, a word from our sponsor (1969)

The American Cancer Society needed only a few seconds to get its point in this ad, which comes from Skyhawks. D Heine uploaded this message from Steve Wilson (Casey Kasem) to the audience:

Unfortunately, the video no longer is available for reasons known only to the poster and/or YouTube.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: On & On (1974)

Bein139 presents a choice cut from Soul Train, featuring Gladys Knight & the Pips performing "On & On", from the movie, "Claudine", which starred Diahann Carroll (ex-Julia) & James Earl Jones.

Toons After Dark: Samurai Jack (2001)

Yesterday, we talked about Mike Judge's King of the Hill, which, as a follow-up to Beavis & Butt-Head, was as diametrically opposite as possible. Today, we find another distinguished creator doing the same.

Genndy Tartatovsky, the creator of Dexter's Laboratory, followed that with Samurai Jack for Cartoon Network in 2001. Drawing upon inspirations as diverse as the 70's series, Kung Fu, and the works of artist Maurice Sendak, Tartatovsky created a bizarre "future" in which Jack (Phil LaMarr) was thrust after being removed from ancient Japan by a power-mad demon, Aku (Mako), who saw Jack as a threat to his rule. The series lasted 4 "seasons" of 13 episodes, ending in 2004 after nearly 3 full years on the air. Until a few months ago, reruns aired on Boomerang in late night, but you never know if it'll return anytime soon.

Here's the intro: of the Black Eyed Peas co-wrote the title song. Whodathunk?

Rating: B.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Toons After Dark: King of the Hill (1997)

With Beavis & Butt-Head winding down on MTV, series creator Mike Judge faced a career challenge---topping himself. To be honest, I'd say he succeeded.

King of the Hill premiered in January 1997, as Beavis ended its first run 11 months later, but Hill outlasted Beavis by a wide margin, ending in 2010. The two shows, of course, were as different as night & day, but both were set in the same state, Texas, which Judge still calls home.

Judge recycled his Tom Anderson voice from Beavis for Hank Hill, a propane salesman and family man who spent as much time with his friends--Dale, Bill, and the incomprehensible Boomhauer, who may have been inspired by Dick Tracy's nemesis, Mumbles. Son Bobby (Pamela Seagall-Adlon) was defined very simply by Hank with one line---"That boy ain't right". Still, Bobby was used in commercials for Autolite during the series' run, so he must have done pretty good, after all.

Following is a clip from a sample episode, uploaded by Jimmy Nguyen:

After reruns were played into the ground on FX, Cartoon Network acquired the series for its [adult swim] division, where only two episodes air per night, leading off the overnight block.

Rating: B+.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Pound Puppies (2010)

When The Hub launched in October 2010, rising from the ashes of Discovery Kids, if you will, Hasbro revived a trio of properties for new series. We've previously reviewed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and we'll eventually get to GI Joe: Renegades.

The topic this time, though is Pound Puppies, which is one of the properties Hasbro acquired when it purchased Tonka a number of years back, and was one of two Tonka products adapted for television by Hanna-Barbera in the mid-80's (Challenge of the Gobots was the other). 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of the original version, so it seemed fitting that the Puppies would return, albeit with a new look.

The Hub's YouTube channel provides this sample clip:

Pretty much more of the same that we saw back in the 80's, but streamlined. The fact that it's still in production will speak volumes of how well Hasbro has marketed this revival.

Rating: B.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Out of the Recycling Bin: Fun World (1976?)

There was a time in the 70's when Viacom handled distribution of Hanna-Barbera programming. In the mid-70's, they packaged four, sometimes five, H-B shows in a checkerboard programming block. Occasionally, one of the shows would be subbed out for an outsider. In other words, this was a daily anthology that had a different show airing each day. In New York, it was known as Fun World, airing on WPIX. No station in my home market took a chance, so we were thankful for cable.

The five shows were:

The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan:

The Funky Phantom:

Wacky Races:

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop:

And, finally, Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines:

When the block ran in the afternoon, I recall The Jackson 5ive being in the block, subbing for one of the above:

WPIX moved it between afternoons & mornings, but my memory is hazy on the exact schedule and order of programs. It didn't last long, though, maybe a year or two at the most before the station acquired other programming (i.e. Tom & Jerry).

Rating: B.

On DVD: The Ultimate Underdog Collection, Vol. 1 (1964)

On a whim, the other week, I stopped at a CVS Pharmacy and snagged a copy of The Ultimate Underdog Collection, Volume 1 on DVD, collecting six episodes from the series, backup features included.

Each chapter to a 4-part Underdog serial, stretched across two episodes, runs about 4-6 minutes each, shorter than the running time of the average short of the period. That does leave room for 2 backups, usually reruns from earlier series from the same studio, including King Leonardo & His Short Subjects and Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales. The World of Commander McBragg has different title cards than we became accustomed to via syndicated reruns, but the intros to each of the backups, including Go Go Gophers, are not included in this set.

Right now, let's scope out the first half of "Fearo", plus Go Go Gophers & The World of Commander McBragg:

You'll note that the clip used to set up the first Underdog segment of each show was usually used later in syndicated reruns. Go figure.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toonfomercial: Pink Panther cereal (1971)

At the height of his popularity in the early 70's, the Pink Panther was licensed out to Post, then a division of General Foods, for a brand of breakfast cereal. Basically, Post created a pink-colored variation of their long-running Toasties brand, their answer to Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

Now, I must admit that until today, I'd never even known this cereal even existed, flying under the radar as Post had acquired another license in 1971 that's still going strong today----the Pebbles line of cereals, endorsed by The Flintstones.

DePatie-Freleng (of course) produced the following commercial:

Needless to say, it didn't last more than a year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From Comics to Toons: Dick Tracy vs. Flattop (1971)

Willy Carlson brings us another Dick Tracy short from Archie's TV Funnies.

Flattop escapes from prison and is right back in business, meaning Tracy (John Erwin) has to bring him back. Junior (Howard Morris) tries going undercover, but he's late to the party. Gee, what a shock.

For those that ask, Moon Maid (Jane Webb) was introduced in the comic strip some time prior to this series, and was written out some years later. Sounds to me like Webb's voice was sped up to get the proper effect for this role.

The laugh track, used for Junior's comedy scenes, was a unneeded distraction, and kills the vibe of the story.

Rating: B-.

Animated World of DC Comics: Wonder Woman (2013)

In my review of Beware the Batman yesterday, I neglected to mention a DC Nation short that was included with the episode. Just as well, because the nimrods at Cartoon Network and Time Warner Cable couldn't get together to figure out the appropriate time block for the show, due to too many commercials.

Anyway, Wonder Woman goes solo in a short written & directed by Robert Valley, who gets his inspiration from the late 90's redesign for Batman with the angular designs for the Amazing Amazon, who subs out her invisible jet for a sports car. Sorry to say that the complete clip is not yet available on YouTube, and that what I did see On Demand was cut off before the conclusion, thus cutting off the closing credits to Beware the Batman.

Well, all you're going to see here is about 33 seconds of potential coolness.

Hey, it's better than the current comics.

Rating: B.

Monday, July 15, 2013

On The Air: Beware The Batman (2013)

Well, it's finally here.

"It", of course, is Beware The Batman, the newest addition to Cartoon Network's DC Nation Saturday morning package. I'll give you guys fair warning now. If you don't catch it on Saturdays, the only way you'll catch up before the next episode is On Demand, if your cabler has it.

It is an open secret that producer-writer Mitch Watson (ex-Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated) has chosen to use lesser known villains such as Professor Pyg & Mr. Toad, the latter not to be confused with, though perhaps inspired by, the version created by author Kenneth Grahame years ago. In the comics, both characters, along with the mid-80's 1-shot, Magpie, were killed off, but they're being introduced to a new audience, which might put them in play in DC's New 52 Universe in due course.

According to the esteemed Tony Isabella on his blog, the producers are "tired" of using the Joker, and need to give him and the major villains a break. Well, I can't blame the logic, really. Mr. Isabella may be looking at revisiting past disputes with DC over the use of one Tobias Whale, whom Mr. Isabella created in the mid-70's as a foe for Black Lightning. In the Free Comic Book Day preview, Whale was used as a sort-of subordinate to Anarky, who was a product of the 1990's. While Anarky was actually a child in the books then, and may be all grown up in this series, there will be fans who will watch his usage very closely as well.

We will not be seeing Robin or Batgirl in this series just yet, either, if at all. Instead, Watson has chosen to use Katana, who was created in the 80's as part of the Batman-led Outsiders team. She doesn't appear in costume in the first issue, but is installed as a bodyguard for Bruce Wayne at the request of Alfred Pennyworth, who in this series is a clean shaven former MI-6 agent, now retired, who is tasked with safeguarding Wayne until an encounter with Pyg & Toad leaves him unable to fulfill that task.

The CGI graphics, much like on Green Lantern, the series it replaces, look more at home on an old school video game. One needs only to look at CGI animated features such as "Toy Story" or "Ice Age" to see that this can be done better. The story is actually interesting, especially if you're not used to Pyg & Toad, and I fall into that category. Given ye scribe's busy schedule, I'm making an appointment to scope this On Demand as often as needed, but after today, preferably after they edit out the commercials!

Casting is a bit different this time, as they opted for lesser known, or even unknown, actors instead of familiar, name talents. Not too shabby, actually.

IGN provides the trailer:

Rating: B+.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Toonfomercial: Classical cartoon gas (1960's)

Here's a pair of rarities that the person who posted this video to YouTube says were produced by Hanna-Barbera. So far, as far as I know, that hasn't been fully proven.

Lion Oil is a regional company originally out of Arkansas, but now based in Tennessee after a corporate merger or three. In the 2nd of the 2 ads, a Frenchman (reputedly Alan Reed) brings his sputtering sports car (Mel Blanc, of course) to a Lion service station, where the Lion himself (Shepard Menken) convinces him to try his brand of oil.

Bardahl is the better known of the two brands, and was founded by a Norwegian immigrant. The spot that opens the video features a quartet of gangsters inside an engine, whose plans are flushed by Bardahl (Gary Owens).

If anyone has more information on these ads, please feel free to pass it along.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rein-Toon-Ation: Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon (2003)

A while back, we reviewed one of Spike TV's trio of adult cartoons that bowed in 2003, Stripperella. This time, we'll look at the return of John Kricfalusi's Ren & Stimpy.

At the time the following promo aired, Spike was still TNN (The National Network), and underwent the name change before the launch of Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon. The sad part is that this was the show that got the most hype, but was the worst of the trio (Gary The Rat, starring Kelsey Grammer (ex-Frasier), was the third part of The Block).

Your eyes ain't deceiving you, effendi. They were in a human's mouth, using it as a temporary living space. That said human was homeless was beside the point. In a nutshell, it illustrated just how far Kricfalusi (who was seen in the promo) was willing to go to push the envelope and do things that Spike's step-sister network, Nickelodeon, wouldn't let him do a decade earlier. Kricfalusi needed a hit series to rebound from the failure that was The Ripping Friends, which bombed at 2 networks (Fox & Cartoon Network) two years prior. Unfortunately, the people that followed the original Ren & Stimpy turned away from this show in droves. In fact, the entire block wound up cancelled.

Rating: D-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mighty Heroes vs. the Plastic Blaster (1966)

It's been a while since we visited with Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Heroes, so let's check out their encounter with the Raven and his "Plastic Blaster". I believe that is Herschel Bernardi (ex-Peter Gunn) narrating.

Nice to know that sometimes the villains are as inept as the heroes......!

Rating: B.

Friday, July 12, 2013

On The Air: Mickey Mouse (2013)

Disney has begun producing a set of flash-animated shorts featuring Mickey Mouse and friends. Currently, they're airing in primetime on Disney Channel (check listings), but you know eventually they'll put them on in the morning, probably on the weekends.

The artwork isn't up to classic Disney standards, but then again......! The running time is about half the length of the classic shorts from the Golden Age, at least for now, but if they get the ratings they want, they'll order longer stories. At least we can hope so. For right now, check out "No Service". Mind the fact that Mickey (and later, Donald Duck) spends a chunk of the time going commando, if you get the drift.

Uploaded by DisneyShorts:

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sunday Funnies: Clarissa Explains It All (1991)

Nickelodeon has had a track record of creating stars, much like sister network MTV used to back in the day. One of their most popular stars of the early 90's was Melissa Joan Hart, who bowed in the network's 1991 sitcom, Clarissa Explains It All. Clarissa Darling (Hart) regularly broke the 4th wall to spin her tale to the audience and move the episode along. It was clear from the go that her brother, Ferguson (Jason Zimbler), was both a knockoff of Michael J. Fox's iconic Alex P. Keaton (Family Ties) and a black hole when it came to presence. No wonder Clarissa hated him so much!

After the series ended, Nick suits thought about the next chapter, sending Clarissa off to college, but the pilot went nowhere. Instead, corporate parent Viacom tapped Hart to star in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and, of course, the rest is history. Hart currently co-stars on the ABC Family series, Melissa & Joey, with another 90's fan favorite, Joey Lawrence (Blossom).

Here's a sample promo clip:

Clarissa has returned periodically as part of TeenNick's The 90's Are All That late night block, so check your cable guide.

Rating: B.

Teenage Toons: Sabrina's Aunt Hilda steals the show! (1970)

Sabrina, The Teenage Witch joins Archie and the gang to perform in a play, but her Aunt Hilda literally steals the show! However, will success go to her head? Well, what do you think? Emmanuel Matteer, Jr. uploaded this choice piece:

Well, at that stage, Hilda's only competition might've been Phyllis Diller.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Saturtainment: The Midnight Special (1973)

As most of you doubtlessly know, once the clock strikes midnight, the calendar moves to the next day. To that end, it makes sense that we would get around to discussing one of the most influential music programs of the 70's.

The Midnight Special launched its weekly run in February 1973, six months after a politically themed pilot special aired, attempting to encourage young people to vote. The series, the brainchild of producer Burt Sugarman, gets its title from a folk song most commonly associated with 60's pop singer Johnny Rivers ("Secret Agent Man"). Initially, it aired from 1-2:30 am (ET), in back of The Tonight Show, but when Johnny Carson decided to trim his show from 90 minutes to its present 1 hour format, Midnight Special moved up to 12:30-2 am. Suffice it to say, I wasn't old enough to stay up that late back then, and by the time I finally was at an age where I could, the show was winding down.

You've probably seen the infomercial hawking a Guthy-Renker DVD release of the series' best performances, so you would get an idea about the show. Since I never saw the show, of course, I can't rate it fairly.

To give you an example of the quality of the acts appearing on the show, let's check out a 1975 appearance by the Bee Gees, with an intro by then-hostess Helen Reddy (who was the only one who had a regular gig, even if it did last a few months). Uploaded by Dean Wittke, here's "Nights on Broadway":

Toonformercial: Remember King Vitaman? (1970)

Quaker Oats went to the well again, commissioning Jay Ward Productions to create a new animated character to promote their cereals, after Cap'n Crunch, Quisp, & Quake.

Enter, then, the land of King Vitaman. The original incarnation, created by the Ward crew, was a tiny fellow (voiced by Joe Flynn, ex-McHale's Navy) who had bumbling knights for assistants, predictably enough. After a couple of years, Quaker switched gears and went with a live-action actor, George Mann, a former vaudeville star, as the new King.

For what it's worth, King Vitaman, like Quisp, is still produced in limited quantities and areas. Most folks only see the Cap'n Crunch line of cereals and Quaker oatmeals, but little else.

Now, let's move back in time to 1970 and see King Vitaman as he originally appeared.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tooniversary: Inch High......Pet Detective? (1973)

Long before Ace Ventura was even a thought in a writer's mind, Inch High, Private Eye was solving cases about missing animals. Case in point is this episode.

Unfortunately, the video has been deleted.

I cannot fairly rate this episode, as I never saw it. Sorry about the fact the opening & closing credits aren't included.

Rein-toon-ation: X-Men: Evolution (2000)

X-Men: Evolution was one of those Kids' WB! shows that was badly mistreated by the network in the course of its 3 years on the air.

The producers attempted to bridge a generation gap, if you will, by bringing together members of classic X-teams of the 60's, 70's, and so forth, under one roof as teens. That also applies to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who likewise are recast as teens for this series. However, despite the enormous popularity of the mutants' comics exploits, the series, coming as it did on the heels of the first X-movie with Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, wasn't seen as a priority series by WB network suits.

Following is the season 1 episode, "Grim Reminder":

The series hasn't been seen since cable runs on Cartoon Network & DisneyXD after cancellation, and despite Wolverine returning to theatres later this month, there seem to be no plans to bring the show back.

Rating: B.

On The Air: The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange (2012)

The following review originally appeared on my other blog, The Land of Whatever, back in November 2012. Here it is again, in case you missed it the first time:

Ever since they launched [adult swim] 11 years ago, Cartoon Network has seen the benefits of going back to the Golden Age of Television and producing 15 minute series. In the last couple of years, CN began producing shows under this format such as Mad & Adventure Time for their primary programming schedule, and this summer brought the latest 15 minute series.

The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange, otherwise known simply as Annoying Orange, began as an online series in 2009, and production on the television series began a year later. Computer technology places human eyes & mouths on the characters, but to be honest with you, I don't see anything really annoying about this orange. Then again, I ain't the target audience. I think.

Here's a promo:

Rating: C.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On DVD: Beetle Bailey: The Complete Collection (1963)

Mill Creek erred when they said that their Beetle Bailey DVD compilation was the "Complete Collection", because, as we documented when we originally reviewed Beetle, King Features produced some test shorts in 1962, but the entirety of the 2-disc set covers the 1963-4 run, ignoring the earlier works. Worth noting that it's acknowledged in some of the shorts that they were co-produced with Paramount, especially considering the musical director for most of the shorts is Famous Studios' Winston Sharples.

The 4-short episodes collected in the compilation are not in the order in which they were originally presented, but rather a jumbled mix via Hearst Entertainment, which owns the rights to the series and reissued the cartoons some 20-odd years ago.

Howard Morris would later recycle his Beetle voice as Forsythe "Jughead" Jones in the Archie cartoons for Filmation (1968-78), and co-wrote, with co-star Allan Melvin, one of the shorts in the following sample, "Leap No More My Lady". While Morris & Melvin got their only screen credits as writers, just as Jack Mercer (Popeye) often did when he wrote some shorts for Famous-Paramount, their voices are easy to recognize to older fans acquainted with their later toon works. You can pretty much tell that this was mostly a 2-man job (the voice of Bunny, Beetle's then-girlfriend, remains a mystery).

Following: "Everything's Ducky", "Leap No More My Lady", "V For Visitors", & "The Jinx":

The above is an example of the hit & miss quality of the shorts. Mill Creek & Hearst did completists no favors with their poor production on the DVD.

Rating (for the DVD package): C.

From Comics to Toons: Dilbert (1999)

Scott Adams' comic strip, Dilbert, was adapted for television by Adams and Larry Charles, spending parts of 2 seasons in primetime on UPN. It should've lasted longer than it did, but UPN suits just didn't know what to do with the show, which aired on Mondays. Then again, in its short history, UPN never really got off the ground enough to be a major player.

Daniel Stern (ex-The Wonder Years, "Home Alone") lends his voice to the title character, an Everyman working in an office surrounded by a group of off-beat personalities. What office would employ a dog in a position of power, anyway? The running gag with Dogbert (Chris Elliott, ex-Get A Life) is that while he can be useful in time of need, he's also a bit of a subversive. In other words, the antithesis of Brian Griffin (Family Guy), who was treated (and designed) more like a person rather than a dog. Dogbert is a dog who's not even pretending to be human. Such is the wacky world of cartoons, folks. The fact that Dilbert is still rolling along in the newspapers is testimony alone to its popularity. The fictional office may be one of the few that employs a boss who's actually dumber than his hirelings!

Dilbert attracted a fair number of guests, including Jerry Seinfeld and wrestler-turned-actor Stone Cold Steve Austin, although in Austin's case, while he appeared as himself, his animated form was a little more bloated than it was meant to be. The producers of Celebrity Deathmatch actually got it right by comparison.

Anyway, here's the theme, composed by the incomparable Danny Elfman:

Dilbert is back on the air, as IFC has the rights, and aired at least a couple of episodes earlier today.

Rating: B-.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love With You)(1968)

The Banana Splits employed a number of different singers to record tracks for their soundtrack album, but none of the singers were ever given screen credit, for obvious reasons.

In later years, it was discovered that Ohio Express frontman Joey Levine was the vocalist on this entry, "I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love With You)", which was definitely aimed at the teenagers in the audience.

Well, it was better than the Express' "Yummy Yummy", don't you think?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

From out of the Recycling Bin: Banana Splits & Friends (approx. 1978)

10 years after their initial debut, the Banana Splits returned in a syndicated rerun package under the umbrella title, Banana Splits & Friends, which utilized an edited version of the show's theme song, and trimmed the original hour-long episodes into half-hour packages for daily syndication. In order to sell the show to stations, Viacom, which packaged the show, mixed in repeats of:

The Atom Ant Show (1965)
The Secret Squirrel Show (1965)
The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & The Adventures of Gulliver (which, like the Splits, bowed in 1968)

Ironically, one of Atom Ant's backup features, The Hillbilly Bears, had been added to the original series, to replace The Three Musketeers, in season 2. 10 years later, viewers would see the cartoons as they were originally presented, save for the fact that the original bumpers from the above shows had been excised, and that Fleegle (Paul Winchell) recorded new intros.

Following is a sample intro, queuing up an episode of Gulliver, with the closing credits to that series on screen at the end of the show while the familiar Banana Splits theme and open/close plays over.

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Tiny Toon Adventures (1990)

In 1990, Warner Bros. & Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment introduced a new generation of Looney Tunes characters with Tiny Toon Adventures. Now, this was supposed to be, in a sense, a passing of the torch, as the WB legends, such as Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, & Daffy Duck, were professors at Acme Looniversity, where the new stars, like Babs & Buster Bunny, Hamton Pig, & Elmyra Duff, were learning the trade.

It was a great idea. Unfortunately, nearly 25 years after their debut, while the Tiny Toons crew has their fanbase, WB hasn't bothered to make use of them since the series ended. Bugs, Daffy, et al have made movies ("Space Jam", "Looney Tunes: Back In Action") and had a sitcom on Cartoon Network that is wrapping up its run as I write this. Why is that? Because the marketing department doesn't have much faith in Buster, Plucky Duck, and company.

Plucky, in fact, was spun off into a solo series after Tiny Toons shifted to the WB Network, and Elmyra was lumped in with Pinky & The Brain. Both efforts were poorly promoted, and thus didn't last long. Those failures were what convinced WB to give up on the Tiny Toons.

WB, though, tried passing the torch again in 2005 with the futuristic adventure series, Loonatics Unleashed, which lasted two seasons, despite being panned by fans and critics. The super powered future Looney Tunes haven't been seen again, either, but there is hope. The Hub picked up Tiny Toons, and is running it weeknights at 6 pm (ET) as of Monday, and since they already have a few other WB properties, including WB-Amblin stablemate Animaniacs, there's a chance that they could pick up Loonatics down the road, but I wouldn't hold my breath, and I'm one of the few Loonatics fans left.

Edit. 1/5/15: The original video posted was deleted. In its place, we will serve up a sample open, plus Buster (Charlie Adler) queuing up a video set to They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man", which has Hamton doing some lip-syncing.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On The Air: Family Guy (1999)

Former Cartoon Network animator Seth MacFarlane's subversive, controversial Family Guy is one of those rare birds. A show revived by viewer demand & DVD sales after it'd been cancelled----twice.

MacFarlane set the show in the fictional city of Quahog in Rhode Island. When was the last time that tiny New England state ever had such attention focused on it, anyway? Considering that MacFarlane is a Rhode Island native, it could be construed that this fits under "slice of life", as he based the dumber-than-a-box-of-hammers title character, Peter Griffin, on some people he knew growing up. Family Guy has repeatedly raised the ire of the moral zealots of the Parents Television Council for mocking religion, among other things.

If there is one positive to the series, especially since its relaunch in 2005, it's the fact that MacFarlane may have channeled his inner geek by bringing in Adam West (ex-Batman) to be a semi-regular cast member. West's animated namesake is, at last check, the mayor of Quahog. West had revived his career via animation over the last several years, gaining a new generation of fans.

MacFarlane is joined in the cast by Mila Kunis (ex-That 70's Show), who became the 2nd actress to essay the role of Meg (Lacey Chabert had been the original Meg, but left due to conflicting commitments between school and Party of Five), Alex Borstein (ex-MadTV) as Lois, and Seth Green (Robot Chicken) as Chris, who's almost as dim as his dad, although he did inherit the waistline.

Following is a video montage spotlighting Mayor Adam West, if only because it may be safer than anything else.

I've mentioned before how MacFarlane made mockery of the Wonder Twins, which cost him plenty of cred points at this desk. Besides, if there's one reason I'd side with the PTC regarding this show, it's because it's a celebration of stupidity, as embodied by Peter.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teenage Toons: Daria (1997)

Spun off from Beavis & Butt-Head, Daria launched on MTV a few months before Beavis ended its first run in 1997. Any fan of the two shows knows that Daria Morgandorffer was the nemesis of the Texas Twits for one good reason. She was their diametric opposite. Smart, cynical, & sassy as opposed to being dumber than a broken lightbulb. Then again.........

Daria did have its resident dimwits in Kevin, a quarterback on the football team who seemingly is never out of uniform, and Brittany, his cheerleader girlfriend, a regular Dumb Dora if you get my drift. We also met Daria's parents and sister, and Daria now had a sidekick in best pal Jane Lane, who probably would be another one that Beavis & Butt-Head couldn't deal with.

Daria lasted 5 seasons, but remember, in this day and age, cable networks define seasons differently than they have in the past. The series ended with the TV-movie, "Is It College Yet?", which aired in January 2002. Reruns were last seen on MTV a year ago, and prior to that, on sister network Logo in 2010. Viacom, of course, could put the series on any of their channels, but presently prefers to lock it back in the vaults. Yes, the series is available on DVD, by the way.

Here's the open:

According to the Wikipedia page on the series, MTV did have some discussions about reviving the show last year, but after the revival of Beavis did a sudden crash & burn (read: MTV, being run by idiots, decided not to renew it), well......!

Rating: B.

Monday, July 1, 2013

From Comics To Toons: Beetle Bailey tries cutting the mess hall line (1973)

Nearly ten years after his syndicated series ended production, Beetle Bailey returned to television, this time in a short skit on Sesame Street. An off-camera narrator carries the action, as apparently the producers couldn't get any of the voice actors to return, although Howard Morris, who was the voice of Beetle in the 1962-4 King Features series, did contribute a short skit with Jughead from The Archie Show four years earlier. Allan Melvin (Sgt. Snorkel) was working on The Brady Bunch at the time. Oh, well.

This would be the last Beetle cartoon. Now, if some enterprising soul would try to get the rights......!

Rating: C.