Saturday, April 30, 2011

From Comics to Toons: The Marvel Superheroes Show (1966)

I can't say for sure if The Marvel Superheroes Show was ever shown on a Saturday morning anywhere, but I do recall seeing the syndicated series, albeit hazily, airing on a Sunday once upon a time, as filler following football, if memory serves.

Anyway, it was originally produced as a daily series, launching in 1966 on stations across the country. One day, you'd get the Incredible Hulk. The next day, it'd be Iron Man. Sub-Mariner, Captain America, & Thor would round out the rotation.

The last time these cartoons were seen anywhere with any regularity was in the late 70's-early 80's. WPIX in New York had the rights at the time, but rechristened the series, Marvel Men, and edited off the opening and closing credits. Not that we needed to hear any more cheesy theme music than already available, but it would've helped. I have to believe that "Mr. Marvel" himself, Stan Lee, composed the theme songs, too. Describing Sub-Mariner as "neurotic", for example, in the lyrics to his theme sounds like Stan's work for sure. Of these, Iron Man & Hulk would later star in their own separate weekend series, with the others consigned to guest-star gigs whenever possible.

JeffGutman uploaded the open to YouTube. The quality of the video speaks for itself.

Rating: C.

Literary Toons: Tales of the Wizard of Oz (1961)

One of Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass' first television series was a 1961 syndicated offering, Tales of the Wizard of Oz, loosely based on the works of author L. Frank Baum. The series was composed of 4-5 short stories per episode, as there were 200 shorts made. As you'll see, the line animation, produced by Crawley Films, isn't on a par with Rankin-Bass' later works (i.e. Kid Power), and the loose interpretation also resulted in a less than perfect representation of the classic characters.

For an example, here's the episode, 'The Super Duper Market", which includes the show open.

Six years later, the Oz characters would return, this time in prime time, and in better hands, those of toon legend Chuck Jones, for ABC's anthology series, Off to See the Wizard, which, sadly, lasted just one season. There would be another Wizard of Oz cartoon, some years later, and we'll look at that another time if I can find a clip. Meanwhile, you can see this version of the Oz characters on Retro in between the Filmation toons on Saturdays, as it's also owned by Classic Media.

Rating: D.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2000)

Some of you might not realize this, but the Transformers were a mainstay of Fox's children's programming in the late 90's and into the beginning of the 2000's. After a pair of CGI series produced by Canada's Mainframe Entertainment (Beast Wars & Beast Machines), Fox switched gears and acquired a more traditional animated series, imported from Japan by Haim Saban (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers).

Known as Car Robots in Japan, Transformers: Robots in Disguise quietly snuck onto the Fox Saturday schedule during the 2000-01 season. While some of the sound effects carried over from the original, weekday Transformers series in the 80's, and the scene transitions, using the logos of the Autobots & Decepticons were borrowed from Batman, Robots in Disguise attempted to forge its own place in Transformers lore. Here's the open to Robots in Disguise, which was the first series to use the current Transformers logo:

The series was gone by the end of 2001, a victim of, more than likely, declining ratings. All succeeding series, starting with 2002's Transformers Armada, aired on Cartoon Network, but the rights now belong with Hasbro's own network, The Hub, which conceivably could air all of the series in due course.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rein-toon-ation: A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (1988)

Just when you thought Scooby-Doo had solved his last case, consigned to an eternity of syndicated reruns, ABC decided to bring Scooby back after a 2 year absence in 1988. This time, however, there were a few changes.

A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was Hanna-Barbera's 2nd series in which they had rebooted iconic characters by focusing on their younger years (Flintstone Kids came 2 years earlier, ironically replacing Scooby on the schedule). Pup lasted three seasons, but was kept around in repeats, according to Wikipedia, until 1993, at which point ABC bade their final farewell to Scooby, who had been a fixture on Saturdays on the network since moving to CBS in 1976, save for that two year vacation (1986-88).

Pup marked the first time that Casey Kasem (Shaggy) & Don Messick (Scooby) were given top billing, and would be the last time that Messick would be the voice of Scooby. Messick passed away before production began on the first of the Scooby DTV movies, "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island", which was released in 1998. Actress Kellie Martin, later of Life Goes On & E R, voiced the younger Daphne, who was shown to be rather wealthy, something that had not been fully explored in earlier series.

Some believe that Cartoon Network's live-action Scooby prequels have retconned Pup out of existence, but that is left open to debate. Here's the open  to Pup:

Producer Tom Ruegger also worked on 1985's 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, but is better known for spearheading the revival of WB's animation division in the 90's.

Rating: B--.

Saturday School: The Metric Marvels (1978)

From the creators of ABC's award-winning Schoolhouse Rock comes The Metric Marvels, a group of educational "superheroes" who debuted on NBC in 1978. Unfortunately, the Marvels (Wonder Gram, Meter Man, Liter Leader, & Super Celsius) didn't last very long, as only 7 shorts were produced. None of those shorts are available on YouTube, and all I can find is this black & white intro:

Schoolhouse Rock regulars Lynn Ahrens & Bob Dorough were joined by toon icon Paul Winchell in voicing the four Marvels. The idea was that, in the late 70's, there was a movement to introduce the Metric system to the US. It didn't quite take, as we're still using more traditional means. A nice idea, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday School: Captain Kangaroo (1955)

Long before Sesame Street became a destination for pre-schoolers, Captain Kangaroo was entertaining kids and parents alike with skits, cartoons, and occasional celebrity guests.

Bob Keeshan, who at one time essayed the role of Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody, became a television legend as the Captain, whose Treasure House was opened six days a week from 1955-68, and again in the 80's, with the Saturday show airing ahead of the CBS lineup in some cities. In my home district, the series was blacked out on Saturdays in the 80's, and I have no memory of any Saturday episode at all. During this period, Keeshan created a companion series, Mr. Mayor, which lasted one season (1964-5) before the Captain reopened the Treasure House on Saturdays for three more years.

Most fans will remember some of the supporting cast, such as Mr. Moose, Dancing Bear, Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum), or even the Town Clown (Keeshan doing a pantomime skit, similar to Jackie Gleason's Poor Soul), or the cartoons, like Terrytoons' Tom Terrific. Emmy winner Bill Cosby joined the show in the late 70's as the host of the PicturePages segment, this while his own Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids was on the air.

Eyeontv uploaded this clip from the 50's, which also includes some material from the 80's.

Back in the 60's & early 70's, WTEN of Albany, at the time the CBS affiliate, set up the perfect lead-in by airing a 5 minute newscast for kids, The Good Ship News, as a bridge between cartoons and the Captain on weekdays. Those were great times. Too bad they didn't try it on Saturdays, too.

Rating: A.

Saturtainment: Heckle & Jeckle (1956)

One year after Mighty Mouse made his television debut, Terrytoons stablemates Heckle & Jeckle joined him on CBS' Saturday schedule. However, the "Talking Magpies" didn't have the staying power of the "Mouse of Tomorrow", and were cancelled after 1 season, only to be brought back in 1965 when CBS had a hole in the schedule that needed to be filled. This time, they lasted two years before being swept out again. NBC picked up Heckle & Jeckle for a 2 year run from 1969-71, and then the theatrical shorts went into syndication, coupled with a new set of cartoons made for the later CBS & NBC runs.

To distinguish one from the other, Heckle speaks with a Brooklyn accent, while Jeckle is British in background.

I first discovered Heckle & Jeckle during their syndicated run in the 70's, when it aired on WPIX in New York & WSBK in Boston. In 1979, the magpies returned to CBS, this time as part of a 1 hour block with Mighty Mouse. This time, Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo) voiced both characters in Filmation's incarnation, which didn't last very long, either. Right now, I can't find any of the Filmation toons, but in the meantime, here's the color version of the open for the Terrytoons show, uploaded by Muttley16 to YouTube:

CBS-Paramount owns the rights, but don't believe putting the classic toons on Nickelodeon or Nicktoons will create a new generation of fans for the magpies. Their loss.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturtainment: Kids Incorporated (1984)

Before Nickelodeon launched either All That or Roundhouse, independent producer Thomas Lynch shopped around a teen ensemble series, Kids Incorporated, which was eventually picked up by MGM-UA to be distributed in syndication. The series lasted two years on broadcast television, but was picked up by the Disney Channel shortly after it was cancelled in May of '86, and remained on Disney until 1996. Sadly, reruns remain in the Disney vaults, and rights to the series are otherwise split between MGM & Fox.

Like All That or, way before that, The Mickey Mouse Club, Kids Incorporated was a launch pad for a number of its cast members, chief among them being Mario Lopez (later of Saved by the Bell and currently the host of Extra) and Stacy Ferguson, whom we know better as Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.

In fact, Stacy is featured in the following clip from season 3, in which she performs a cover of Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" (from "White Nights"). You'd hardly believe that the blonde warbler shown below would later become one of the most recognizable women on the planet more than 25 years later. Kidsincorporated (DUH!) uploaded the clip:

The series alumni also includes another Top 40 star, Martika, who had a brief run on the charts after leaving the show, and Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer), who flirted with chart success herself a few years back. Too bad the rights are tied up in limbo, because you can bet Disney would put it back on the air in a heartbeat if they felt the need.

Rating: B-.

Saturtainment: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969)

While CBS didn't renew Wacky Races for a 2nd year, it did green-light 2 spin-offs from the series, both set in earlier times.

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was set in the roaring 20's, presumably during the silent film era, which coincidentally the series is paying homage to with the cliffhanger format. Sadly, the cliffhanger endings originally used were edited out of later reruns and the DVD release of a few years back. In a way, it seems to make a wee bit of sense, considering how Boomerang has played Perils into the ground the last couple of years with relentless daily airings.

Anyway, aside from a mention of Dick Dastardly, who now had his own series as well, there are no links between Perils and Wacky Races. Likewise, Races is not mentioned at all in Dastardly's series, suggesting that, indeed the Races took place much later chronologically. Sources say that Dastardly was supposed to be joining Penelope (Janet Waldo) and the Ant Hill Mob on this show, rebooted as a bodyguard to Penelope's heretofore unseen brother, but plans were nixed.

Penelope instead must deal with a greedy guardian, Sylvester Sneekly, aka the Hooded Claw (an uncredited Paul Lynde, Hollywood Squares & Bewitched), who wants Penelope's inheritance for himself. The series ended without a final resolution, which allows fans to create their own ideas on how to close the show properly. I'll share mine another time.

Following is the intro we all remember:

Gary Owens, who was now on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In by this point, served as the narrator in what would be his last gig for Hanna-Barbera until Dynomutt in 1976. The rest of the voice cast consisted of Paul Winchell, Mel Blanc, & Don Messick, who divvied up the voices of the Ant Hill Mob. Blanc, of course, provided Chuggaboom's sound effects and the unified dialogue of the Bully Brothers, the Claw's twin henchmen.

Would this series work today? Maybe, depending on how today's writers could reinterpret the show for a modern audience. It'd have to be reset in more modern times, because leaving it in the silent era won't pick up new viewers.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From Comics to Toons: Silver Surfer (1998)

One of the most beloved Marvel comics characters of all time, the Silver Surfer was given his own series by Fox in 1998. Despite critical acclaim from critics and fans alike, the series lasted just 1 season due to Marvel having bankruptcy issues during that time, and issues involving Saban, which produced the series, and Toy Biz, which was the licensee for the company's action figures. Here's the open to the show, and you can see that the character designs were based on the original artwork of the Surfer's creator, Jack Kirby.

Not too surprisingly, Saban's writers took liberties with the source material, which led to some negative criticism from some fans, but then, Saban had already done the same with two other Marvel series, Spider-Man & X-Men, both of which also aired on Fox.

Would Marvel be willing to try again with the Surfer? Now that the company is a unit of Disney, I'd say it'd be doable under the right circumstances, but it would end up being produced for DisneyXD, simply because Disney no longer is interested in putting new product on ABC's Saturday block.

Rating: B-.

Toon Legends: Space Ghost (1966)

Today's generation of viewers see Space Ghost as a buffoonish talk-show host, the result of enjoying a lengthy run on Cartoon Network a number of years back with Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast, which recast the Phantom of the Spaceways as a parody of late-night chatters like David Letterman and Jay Leno. While Coast-to-Coast was the forerunner of CN's [adult swim] nighttime block, Space Ghost helped lead CBS' superhero-packed Saturday morning block for 2 seasons (1966-68). LA-based radio personality Gary Owens (Roger Ramjet) was the voice of our stalwart hero, aided by teen orphans Jan (Ginny Tyler) & Jace (Tim Matheson, ex-Jonny Quest).

To counter Coast-to-Coast, and at the same time address the pleas of Space Ghost's older fans, DC released a 6 issue miniseries a few years ago that revealed the hero's true origins, something that Hanna-Barbera never addressed in 1966. Back then, of course, such details were non-essential. Despite a brilliant story by Joe Kelly & Ariel Olivetti, there hasn't been a follow-up, likely because there are too many readers today that might be a wee bit confused. I assure you, pilgrims, that there are enough of us who'd rather see Space Ghost fly again, fighting the bad guys instead of hiring them to be goofy assistants for a talk show.

Edit, 6/19/22: The video previously shown was deleted due to copyrights. You all know the intro, though, I'm sure:

Space Ghost would return to action in 1981, as part of NBC's Space Stars anthology series, and while Gary Owens returned to his classic role, new actors took over the roles of Jan & Jace. Space Stars, as previously documented, was cancelled after 1 season. From time to time, episodes from both 1966 & 1981 have aired on Boomerang, so keep an eye out for them.

Rating: B-.

Saturtainment: Kidsongs (1987)

Kidsongs started as a home video series, launched in 1985. 2 years later, Warner Bros. & Orbis Communications took a chance on making Kidsongs a weekly series, airing ahead or in back of network Saturday morning fare, depending on where you lived. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after 1 season due to low ratings and probably also the unmentioned fact that perhaps not enough stations were interested.

Fast forward a decade, and PBS revived the series for their then-fledgling Saturday lineup. Billybiggie uploaded the open to the PBS version, which aired from 1998-2004:

Unfortunately, Kidsongs doesn't air on TV anymore, but the series is available on DVD.

Rating: None. I never watched the show.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game Time: Hole in the Wall (2008)

Cartoon Network has taken a lot of heat for adding live-action programming that has zero to do with cartoons in recent years, but current programming head Stu Snyder just doesn't care what we think. Ya know, that makes him kind of like WWE head honcho Vince McMahon, whose myopic vision runs counter to what his audience demands of him. By that same token, Snyder is bent on shoving live-action shows down the throats of CN's core audience.

It's one thing if the movies they acquire are connected to the cartoons on the network's roster (i.e. Scooby-Doo). It's another if they're just airing on CN to help fulfill contracts for sister networks TNT & TBS. Heck, it's a wonder, considering they air an NBA show on Sunday mornings, that Cartoon Network wasn't conscripted to help air NCAA tournament games last month. Wait. Better not give Snyder any ideas if he or his jabroni flunkies are reading this. Snyder acquired the fading Slamball, created by former NBA executive Pat Croce, a year ago, but the episodes that aired came from the series' last home, Versus, and no new episodes ever aired, as CN cancelled Slamball after a month of poor ratings.

Undaunted, Snyder picked up a game show off the Fox scrap heap last year. Hole in the Wall has its origins in Japan and England, and first aired in the US on Fox in 2008, produced by Fremantle Media (American Idol, Price Is Right). However, Hole lasted less than a year before being booted by Fox, and was resurrected, much to the consternation of CN viewers, last summer, with a new host, Teck Holmes (ex-The Real World). Here's a commercial for Hole as CN was preparing to add it to the schedule.

To his credit, Snyder actually struck gold this time, as Hole has been renewed for a 2nd go-round on Cartoon Network. Very few live-action shows have succeeded on the network so far, but ultimately, kids will tire of Hole, and then it'll slink back into oblivion. Sadly, for Boomerang fans, Hole is airing there, too, and again, it's to help fill out the contract for the show, but at the same time, older viewers are being further alienated by Snyder's singular obsession with utilizing his vision and ignoring his audience. Maybe Ted Turner should buy back the network......

Rating: None. I haven't watched the show to properly rate it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Game Time: Runaround (1972)

Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley's last Saturday morning game show was 1972's Runaround, part of NBC's ill-fated "Terrific 10" block. Actor-ventriloquist Paul Winchell served as the series host, aided by puppet partners Jerry Mahoney & Knucklehead Smiff. The series, unfortunately, lasted just the one season here in the States, and, just as unfortunately, there are no clips available on YouTube. 

However, Runaround would gain new life in England in 1975, and lasted 6 years. Actor Mike Reid (EastEnders) hosted this version for most of its run. 

Edit, 2/24/23: The UK video was deleted due to a copyright claim. We've replaced it with a screencap from the ill-fated NBC version:

There was an unpleasant network practice in the 70's of "wiping", or erasing, tapes of daytime game shows, and I suspect strongly that this fate has befallen the American Runaround, which is a shame, as I have fond memories of watching the show as a 9 year old. 

Rating: (for the US version) B.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Game Time: Remote Control (1987)

Ah, the Golden Age of MTV, when music actually mattered!

Toward the end of the 80's, MTV began branching out and diversifying its programming, acquiring reruns of The Monkees and the Beatles cartoons, among others, and debuting original, in-house programming. One of the more popular series of the period was their first game show, Remote Control, which served as a launching pad of most of the show's cast. Series host Ken Ober, for example, would later appear in a pair of music videos for Blues Traveler, and acted in the first TV adaptation of the movie, Parenthood. Co-host/announcer Colin Quinn and series regular Adam Sandler jumped, separated by a few years, to Saturday Night Live, and to bigger things. Denis Leary (Rescue Me) was also part of the repertory company.

The downside was that they couldn't hang on to the femme fatale sidekicks. Kari Wuhrer (later of Sliders) joined the show in season 2, sampled below, replacing Marisol Massey. Wuhrer lasted two "seasons" (the show lasted three years) before leaving to pursue a dual career as an actress and a singer (far more successful in the former, obviously). In 1989, Viacom, MTV's parent company, decided to spin off a syndicated, weekly version which aired on weekends, making it eligible to be included here. It aired Saturday mornings in New York, as I recall, with a slightly different format.

Ober passed away several months back, but with MTV having decided to bring back Beavis & Butt-Head, what are the chances of the network hiring someone to front a revival of Control, given its star-making track record? Control signed off for good in 1990, easily MTV's most successful game show. Supersaver87 uploaded this season 2 clip to YouTube:

Rating: A.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Break On Through (to the Other Side) (1967)

The Doors began 1967 making their first television appearance in Los Angeles on a smaller music show that was also produced by Dick Clark. Shebang's only other claim to fame may be that it was the first television series hosted by radio & cartoon icon Casey Kasem, whom you'll see at the beginning of this clip, which has Jim Morrison & company performing "Break On Through (To The Other Side)". Uploaded by 28CHAMAN to YouTube:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tooniversary: Help!....It's the Hair Bear Bunch! (1971)

What do you get when you cross Yogi Bear with Tennessee Tuxedo and Top Cat (not to mention Sgt. Bilko)? How about the Hair Bear Bunch, who joined CBS' Saturday lineup, along with Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, while H-B's other entries, Josie & the Pussycats, Scooby-Doo, & Harlem Globetrotters, were all in reruns.

Let's explain the concept. Hair Bear (Daws Butler) is the fast-talking con man, always with a get-rich-quick scheme that requires leaving the Wonderland Zoo, which brings to mind Tennessee Tuxedo and his sidekick, Chumley. Square (Bill Calloway, Love, American Style) pilots the Bunch's invisible motorcycle, but you can never tell the expression in his eyes because they're covered by his hat (borrowing a gimmick from the Beetle Bailey comic strip). Bubi (Paul Winchell) talks even faster, mostly in gibberish. Winchell must've had a new ventriloquist dummy in mind when he created Bubi's voice.

Stuck with the thankless task of keeping the Bunch in the Zoo were zookeeper Eustace Peevley (John Stephenson, doing a riff on McHale's Navy's Joe Flynn) and his assistant, the appropriately named Lionel Botch (Joe E. Ross, ex-Car 54, Where Are You?). Ironically, Tennessee aired on the same network----CBS---just a few short years earlier, but had a longer lifespan than the Bunch, who were cancelled after 1 season.

No one could explain how the Bunch had the gadgets to convert their cave from normal zoo quarters into a swinging bachelor pad, and no one ever did.

Here's the intro:

Stephenson would use the Peevley voice again for two other series of note, as Mr. Finkerton on Inch High, Private Eye (1973) and as the Captain in the Galaxy Goof-Ups segment of Yogi's Space Race (1978). Ross would do two more series for H-B, as Sgt. Flint on Hong Kong Phooey (1974), and as one of the ghosts in the Shake, Rattle, & Roll segment of CB Bears (1977). Unfortunately, the Bunch were never seen again.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 8, 2011

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Man (1967)

Marvel Comics had first dipped into television with the daily, syndicated Marvel Superheroes show, which goes into the record books as the cheapest superhero cartoon in history. Marvel had their producing partners, Canada's Grantray-Lawrence Productions, animate actual panels from the books themselves. Only the opening & closing titles were fully animated. One of these fine days, I'll talk more about that.

In 1967, Marvel finally got the ball rolling, granting a license to Hanna-Barbera to adapt the Fantastic Four, and teaming once again with Grantray-Lawrence, this time for Spider-Man. Both series would last until 1970, brought back as mid-season replacements during the 1969-70 term.

Spider-Man stayed as true as possible to the books, but somewhere along the way, the series got a bit of a creative upgrade, as future icon Ralph Bakshi was brought in and Marvel severed ties with Grantray-Lawrence.

Just as iconic as the show itself is the theme song, performed by the Ray Ellis Singers. :

As we all know, Spidey would return again and again, having appeared in 4 more Saturday morning series, the last just three years ago. Most fans regard the mid-90's series for Fox to be by far the best of the lot. The 1967 edition falls somewhere in the middle.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Celebrity Toons: Kid 'N' Play (1990)

While the New Kids on the Block were crooning for ratings over on ABC, rappers Kid 'N' Play were recruited by NBC for the same reason, freshening up their Saturday lineup while attracting music fans at the same time. NBC was hurting, having lost Alvin & the Chipmunks to Fox while The Smurfs had departed altogether.

Christopher "Kid" Reid & Christopher "Play" Martin only appeared in the predictable live-action bumpers, while other actors handled the voice overs. Brian Mitchell (ex-Trapper John, MD) voiced Play's animated self, and the cast otherwise included the likes of Martin Lawrence, Tommy Davidson (In Living Color), & Cree Summer (A Different World), who has long established herself as a top flight voice actress, whose credits prior to and after this series include Inspector Gadget, Rugrats, & Codename: Kids Next Door. Davidson would later return to toons, co-starring on The Proud Family more than a decade later.

Kid 'N' Play was spun off from the duo's success in the "House Party" feature film series, but lasted just one season. Unfortunately, the record sales didn't translate into television ratings because the viewers might've expected the rappers to voice their toon selves, and didn't. Hey, the same thing happened to the New Kids and, a year later, MC Hammer.........

TheWizardTME uploaded this clip to YouTube:

Rating: None. Never saw the show.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Arthur & the Square Knights of the Round Table (1966)

Australia's Air Programs International is better known for 1972's adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, and co-producing Hanna-Barbera's Funky Phantom a year earlier. Somewhere around that period (1971-72), the studio imported one of their earlier offerings, Arthur & the Square Knights of the Round Table, to the United States. In my home market, the show aired on Sundays ahead of bowling & pro wrestling.

I didn't see much of this show, but this much I do remember, seeing the opening. Not only were these knights square, but also rather smaller in size than literature tells us. The series lasted just two years in Australia, far longer than it did here. I wasn't that impressed with it, to tell you the truth, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

Here's a sample episode:

Rating: D.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985)

In the mid-80's, Kenner Toys (now part of Hasbro) had obtained a license to produce action figures based on DC Comics characters. The Super Powers line led to some changes with Hanna-Barbera's long running Super Friends franchise at ABC.

The first changes came in 1984, with the addition of Firestorm to the team, and the phasing out of the Wonder Twins, who were written out after 3 appearances. Darkseid, the master villain of Jack Kirby's acclaimed Fourth World line of comics in the 70's at DC, made his television debut, but the stone faced ruler of Apokolips wasn't just his usual malevolent self. Suddenly, Darkseid found himself in love-----with Wonder Woman. This obsession drove the majority of the stories for Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, but as that series gave way to Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians the next year, it was de-emphasized, as Darkseid ceded some of the villain spotlight to other masters of mayhem, including the Joker, returning to H-B after 2 appearances on The New Scooby-Doo Movies 13 years earlier.

Darkseid also figures in the story sampled here, "The Death of Superman", which predated a similar story published by DC 8 years later. Cyborg of the Teen Titans has joined the SPT (voiced by Ernie Hudson from the "Ghostbusters" movies).

Here's a sample clip:

The animation is not as clean and crisp as in past seasons, and there would be better stories than this one, including the first adaptation of the origin of the Batman to be presented on television. Small wonder ABC decided to end the franchise after this season.

Rating: B--.

Saturday School: Hot Dog (1970)

Long before the Federal Communications Commission instituted their current Educational/Informational guidelines (E/I), the networks experimented with such programming, usually slotting it in the "death slot" around lunch time (12 noon ET).

One such show was Hot Dog, produced by Lee Mendelson (Peanuts specials) & comic Frank Buxton, previously of ABC's Discovery, but better known to cartoon fans for his work on Hal Seeger's Batfink. Buxton was also the series' creator, developing Hot Dog after a number of his comic monologues about his travels.

What fueled Hot Dog were its celebrity hosts: Jo Anne Worley (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), Jonathan Winters, & future Academy Award winner Woody Allen, who was just starting to make a name for himself in movies when Hot Dog bowed in 1970. Winters would only appear in the pilot, a clip of which appears below, and was replaced by Tom Smothers. As I noted, Hot Dog was given the lunch hour slot, guaranteeing a short shelf life, and was cancelled after 1 season.

70skidvid uploaded the open & close to the pilot:

Rating: None. I never saw the show, so I can't give a fair rating.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Family Toons: The Roman Holidays (1972)

NBC thought highly enough of their 1972 Saturday morning lineup that it was dubbed, "The Terrific Ten". Reruns of Underdog and Pink Panther were joined by 8 new shows, none of whom would return the following season.

Hanna-Barbera had two of those new shows. The Roman Holidays was an attempt to mine the domestic comedy vein tapped more than a decade earlier with The Flintstones, this time with Ancient Rome as the setting. Filling Fred Flintstone's role as the family patriarch was Gus Holiday (Dave Willock, ex-Wacky Races), who, much like Fred, had to deal with a recurring antagonist, in this case, his landlord at the Venus de Milo Arms Apartments, Mr. Evictus (Dom DeLuise).

If you thought having a dinosaur for a pet might've been strange in the 60's, how about a lion? The Holidays had Brutus (Daws Butler). Like The Jetsons, the Holidays had two kids, Hap (Stanley Livingston, ex-My Three Sons) & Precocia (Pamelyn Ferdin, Curiosity Shop & The Paul Lynde Show). Unfortunately, the series, as I noted, was cancelled after just the one season, and languishes in Boomerang's vaults.

Here's the opening to The Roman Holidays:

Well, at least the Holidays haven't been tainted by [adult swim], that we know of....

Rating: B-.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Saturtainment: The Three Stooges

I don't know about you, but in my home district, cable television was a godsend in the early 70's. More stations, more choices. In those days, we were blessed with 4 independent channels from out of town: WSBK in Boston, and WPIX, WNEW (now WNYW), & WOR (now WWOR), and we had our favorite times for each channel.

For WSBK, that would be Saturdays, just before lunch, when they had The Three Stooges. My father wasn't a fan back then, and tried discouraging me from watching, afraid I'd imitate some of their antics. He was more comfortable watching the Abbott & Costello movies on 'PIX on Sundays, instead. Anyway, I got my laughs watching the classic shorts, mostly with Curly.

With apologies to XTC's 1989 hit, Jerome "Curly" Howard, to me, was the original "Mayor of Simpleton". Strong as a bull, but about as smart as a box of broken thumbtacks, as evidenced in the 1936 classic, "Disorder in the Court". Apparently, we're led to believe Curly had never been inside a courtroom before.

As everyone knows, Larry Fine really was a skilled violinist, and "Disorder" gives him a platform for his talent, aided by Curly on bass and Moe on harmonica, though he'd have been better off just playing the harp instead of trying to conduct the band at the same time. Courtesy of drelbcom, here's "Disorder in the Court":

Rating: A+.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Land of 1,000 Dances? (1985-6)

2010 marked the 25th anniversary of Vince McMahon's 1st foray into music with The Wrestling Album. Vince managed to get as many of his wrestlers, along with newly retired grappler-turned-announcer (and soon to be movie star) Jesse Ventura and interviewer Gene Okerlund, as well as McMahon himself, onto a stage somewhere in front of a live audience, aided by a house band that featured Rick Derringer (album producer) and Cyndi Lauper (credited under the alias Mona Flambe, and dressed in a black wig & shades) on guitars, and, yes, that does look like Meat Loaf behind the drum kit. Jimmy Hart, formerly with the 60's pop group, the Gentrys, not only was one of the more despised personalities on the roster of the then-World Wrestling Federation, but also their chief songwriter, once McMahon stopped paying royalties for other people's records, such as Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" (used for Hulk Hogan at the time) and the Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky" (Rick Steamboat), which was later used as the theme music for the NBA's Chicago Bulls.

The Wrestling Album was released in December, 1985, just in time for Christmas, and this video was the stage-setter for the company's 1st Slammy Awards, which took place in March of '86. Of course, things get silly near the end, but what did you expect from this bunch?