Sunday, January 19, 2014

Saturtainment: The Skatebirds (1977)

In 1977, Hanna-Barbera owned the 8 am (ET) hour on Saturdays. CB Bears on NBC. The All-New Super Friends Hour on ABC (easily the best of the lot). And, over on CBS, you had The Skatebirds.

Skatebirds was a riff on the disco fad of the period, with the title characters rolling around on roller skates. The only similarity between this show and 1968's Banana Splits, which lasted two seasons, was that both were anthology shows that had 3 animated features and a live-action serial. That was it. The quality took a nosedive from that point.

Let's consider the component parts for a moment.

*Woofer & Wimper: Dog Detectives was a reworked version of reruns of the previous year's Clue Club, focusing on the comedy relief pooches (Paul Winchell & Jim McGeorge). Big mistake.

*Wonder Wheels was a rip-off of Sid & Marty Krofft's Wonderbug (from Krofft Supershow), only with a dilapidated scooter instead of a dune buggy. Said bike's owner (Micky Dolenz, ex-The Monkees, Devlin, Funky Phantom) merely had to call for Wonder Wheels to effect the change over in transportation from the scooter to a souped-up motorcycle.

*The Three Robonic Stooges took the Three Stooges and turned them into cyborg superheroes in a parody times three of The Six Million Dollar Man. Voices included Winchell, Ross Martin (ex-Wild, Wild West, Sealab 2020), Joe Baker (ex-The Rich Little Show), & Frank Welker, whose Curly voice was also used for Jabberjaw, who had moved over to Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, then shifted to Yogi's Space Race the next year. Go figure. Norman Maurer, Moe Howard's son-in-law, was presumably the head writer, and was also just as presumably in charge of the Wonder Twins shorts over on Super Friends.

*Mystery Island meant to be a cross between Danger Island and any number of cheesy sci-fi movies. Welker provided the sound effects for the robot. The production values were at Krofft-level bad.

Skatebirds was running dead last in its time slot, and so CBS split the show into 2 half hour component parts bookending the lineup. Robonic Stooges had Woofer & Wimper as the backup, while Wonder Wheels & Mystery Island remained on Skatebirds. The next year, Clue Club was restored to its original format, from which it should never have been tampered with.

Muttley16 uploaded the open to the full 1 hour formatted show.

Rating: C.


magicdog said...

I remember this briefly and it was pretty bad even by 70s Sat AM standards!

At least the Splits were funny and their toon shorts far more fun. I thought it odd that Woofer & Whimper were given their own spot here, and worse cutting out the rest of the Clue Club! I'm guessing they were too cheap to create something new.

The Robonic Stooges I could take or leave. I liked the Stooges as a kid (rare for a lot of young girls ya know!) but the toon version just got on my nerves. It's a shame because Moe's grandson, Jeffrey Scott was a big part of getting the show together.

There's a theory that The Impossibles were in fact originally meant to be a version of the Stooges (based on their civilian appearances, you can guess which corresponded to wehich Stooge). If true, I'm glad it didn't go in that direction! The Impossibles were all too competent whereas the Stooges weren't.

Yogi's Space Race was equally weird. Yo Yogi almost made more sense! Almost.

Wonder Wheels got boring with the Superman/Lois Lane angle they gave the characters. I think it would have been cooler for WW, Willie and Dooley to have been a crime fighting trio! It was never explained how WW got to be so super or why it changed back to such a scrawny little scooter.

I barely remember Mystery Island, but based on your description, if they had cared about it a bit more, maybe it could have worked.

hobbyfan said...

As I noted, the Woofer & Wimper segs were edited reruns of Clue Club, so there was nothing new there.

If they were bold enough to revive Wonder Wheels, I'd cut out the middleman (Willie), and have Dooley pilot the bike. That's just me.

Jeffrey Scott remained at H-B into the 80's, as he also worked on Super Friends & Scooby-Doo as memory serves.

The Impossibles were later revived---sort of, with the Harlem Globetrotters taking their powers and some extras. Now, that was BAD.

AH3RD said...

I remember this quite vividly.