Monday, July 14, 2014

Teenage Toons: The Thing in Picnic Panic (1979)

In the Fantastic Four comics, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, was constantly pranked by the unseen Yancy Street Gang, a group of wiseacres from Ben's old neighborhood in New York City.

When Ben was given his solo series in 1979 as 1/2 of Fred & Barney Meet The Thing, he was, as we have discussed, de-aged into a teenager, and relocated to Centerville. Fortunately, Marvel didn't take the bait and try to do a comic book based on these cartoons, but did give Ben a solo book a couple of years later after Marvel Two-In-One ended its run.

What Hanna-Barbera sought to do with Ben was the same thing that had been done with the Wonder Twins two years earlier in their solo shorts on The All-New Super Friends Hour, except that Ben had a regular supporting cast, consisting of a 3-man Yancy Street Gang as adversaries, and Ben's friends, Betty & Kelly Harkness, the latter sister the only one privy to Ben's dual identity, and Betty's prospective boyfriend, snooty Ronald Radford (John Erwin, in his only H-B credit, recycling his Reggie Mantle voice from all those Archie cartoons). For what it's worth, actor-comedian-magician Art Metrano (ex-The Chicago Teddy Bears) voiced Spike, the leader of the Yancy Streeters.

In "Picnic Panic", Ronald tries hogging parking spaces, only to get spun into one spot. However, Ben has to rescue him when Spike cuts the brakes on Ronald's cycle. The oblivious Ronald then starts bragging after he ends up winning a race with the Thing's help. And ya wonder why this was beyond bad? While the Twins met different teenagers every week, and didn't have a consistent supporting cast, Ben could've been better off with Kelly as his sidekick/girlfriend, but the writers thought this made more sense. They couldn't have been more wrong.

Joe Baker (ex-The Rich Little Show, Robonic Stooges) based his Thing voice on Jimmy Durante, but a case could be made that William Bendix might've been in the mix, too, since he originated one of Ben's catchphrases, "Wotta revoltin' development this is!", on The Life of Riley. Newcomer Wayne Morton voiced "Benjy", but was never heard from again, likely because his voice was similar to that of Len Weinrib, whom I think might've voiced one of the other Yancy Streeters.

Rating: C-.


magicdog said...

This show was always bad! Worse still is why Benji would want Betty's affections in the first place. She always acted like she thought him beneath her. She wasn't even smart enough to make the connection that Benji being gone while Thing was making room in the parking lot!

The Yancy Streeters seem like a later incarnation of The Bronto Bunch.

hobbyfan said...

Yeah, now that you mention it, they do resemble a modern day remake of the Brontos. Well, the designs were still in the studio vaults, and....

I postulated that Kelly and Benjy could've been together as a couple, especially since Kelly was privy to Benjy's secret, and Betty wasn't. That's why Kelly was always with Benjy.