Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Hong Kong Phooey vs. The Claw (1974)

Hong Kong Phooey turns 40 this year. Before we get to the next episode, let's consider the prospects for a revival.

The original series posited Phooey, aka Penrod Pooch (Scatman Crothers, ex-Harlem Globetrotters, "The Aristocats"), as a sort of fish out of water. Way out of water. Consider the intro that suggests that either Sgt. Flint (Joe E. Ross, ex-Car 54, Where Are You) or Rosemary (Kathy Gori) would be the canine hero. Please. Talk about suspension of disbelief. There wasn't anything to that!

Phooey was meant to be a satire on the superhero genre, specifically the transparency of his dual identity, as well as the then-white hot popularity of martial arts in movies & television. So what would happen if we took him out of the human world, and moved him into a new setting, where it's all funny animals? Flint would be a bulldog, and Rosemary, who's already a fan, and perhaps smitten, would be a collie.

Where ABC missed the boat was keeping Phooey dry-docked after bringing in another canine hero, Dynomutt, 2 years later. Scooby-Doo came over from CBS, and promptly gave Dyno the rub with a few team-ups. Phooey had been forgotten, and thus never met Scooby. While Mitch Watson rebooted Dyno and Blue Falcon for the 21st century on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, he too left Hong Kong Phooey in the kennel, blowing an opportunity to have the karate chopping crimebuster teaming with Scooby and pals in a first-ever meeting. That would be the only way to justify keeping HKP's original setting.

Otherwise, you reboot and reset, with Rosemary becoming Penry's girlfriend. She ultimately learns his dual ID, he trains her, she becomes his partner, then his wife---assuming of course it gets that far. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Hong Kong Phooey hasn't been tainted by the jackasses at [adult swim]. A few years ago, Cartoon Network produced a Web Premiere Toon that we reviewed a while back that presented Phooey as a more serious hero. It's too bad CN never bothered to broadcast it on television to gauge reaction, because, trust me, it would've blown through the roof. Their loss, as usual.

Ok, enough analysis, let's get to the action:

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

There was an homage of sorts with HKP in the WNSD series. There was a Halloween episode in which the gang visits Velma's relatives and they investigate a mystery there.

There is a scene taking place at a costume party in which one of the neighbors is dressed in a HKP costume. No one else seems to recognize the character, and the neighbor remarks how no one appreciates the classic heroes!

Personally, it always seemed odd in the series proper that Penry Pooch was the only anamorphic character - at least show like Yogi Bear and Top Cat had more than that ratio!

I would love to see a series closer to that short you featured a while back - in which HKP was a martial arts badass!

hobbyfan said...

Yeah, but given the current mindset at CN, a badass version of HKP ain't going anywhere. I'd love to see a series, too, but action ain't going to pay the bills at CN until the new regime gets a clue.