Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (2005)

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody became the 3rd Disney Channel series to crack the 65-episode barrier (after Kim Possible & That's So Raven), and also merited not a spin-off, but a sequel series!

Suite Life served as a showcase for twin brothers Cole & Dylan Sprouse ("Big Daddy"), who play Cody & Zack, respectively. Cody's the smart one, Zack, though 10 minutes older, is not quite as sharp, which would actually make him a match for heiress London Tipton (Brenda Song), who, despite her wealth, is a slacker when it comes to school.

The twins' mom, Carey (Kim Rhodes) is the hotel's resident chanteuse, which helps pay the rent on their suite, obviously. Early on, Cody had a crush on candy shop clerk Maddie (Ashley Tisdale, "High School Musical"), but that subplot went by the boards during the 2nd season, and Maddie was gradually written out of the series during season 3.

Following is the season 1 episode, "The Fairest of Them All":

After 3 seasons, Disney decided to move the series out of the hotel and out to sea, hence the sequel, The Suite Life on Deck. Rhodes & Tisdale were gone, and Debby Ryan was introduced as Cody's new girlfriend. On Deck also marked the series debut of Miller beer pitchman Windell Middlebrooks as a security guard aboard the S. S. Tipton. On Deck has also ended, and, currently, the Sprouses are doing some commercials of their own, for Dannon's Danimals brand of yogurt products for kids. Why Disney refused to put On Deck on ABC will never be explained, but it was a blown opportunity, to be sure.

Rating: B.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

From Primetime to Daytime: That's So Raven (2003)

All this week, we're looking back at some of the shows from ABC's now-defunct ABC Kids block, programmed mostly by cable cousin Disney Channel. ABC & Disney have cleared the decks as of yesterday to make way for a new block packaged by Litton Entertainment and launching on September 3.

First up is That's So Raven, easily the most successful Disney Channel sitcom, having logged 100 episodes over 4 years. Production ended in 2006, but Disney held back the final episodes until 2007, and reruns continued on ABC's Saturday morning block until August 27.

Set in San Francisco, the series revolves around teenage psychic Raven Baxter (Raven-Symone, credited only as Raven, ex-The Cosby Show) and her closest friends, Chelsea (Annaliese Van der Pol) & Eddie (Orlando Brown, Fillmore!, ex-Family Matters). The series' pedigree can be traced all the way back to I Love Lucy, particularly with Raven's penchant for disguises. Raven, Brown, & Van der Pol perform the show's theme song. Here's a sample intro:

T'Keyah "Crystal" Keymah (ex-In Living Color) was written out of the series after three seasons when her character left for England to go to law school. After the series ended, Disney launched a spin-off series, Cory in the House, focusing on Cory (Kyle Massey) and his father, Victor (Rondell Sheridan), who'd moved to Washington, DC. Unfortunately, Cory didn't last long, and ABC never bothered picking it up, as Disney decided not to make any wholesale changes with the lineup, leaving a number of other series that fit the E/I guidelines on the sidelines.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Smokey Bear (1969)

Smokey Bear has been the symbol of the US Forest Service for years. In 1969, Rankin-Bass and ABC decided it'd be a good idea to have kids get to know Smokey by making him a cartoon star. Jackson Weaver, who'd been the voice behind the bear in commercials, was the star here, too. Wmlocher uploaded the open:

Unfortunately, not enough kids were interested in seeing Smokey on a weekly basis, and the series was shunted off to Sundays for its 2nd & final season. The next year, Rankin-Bass would fill the vacant space with adaptations of The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad, but that would also result in failure.

Rating: B.

From Out of the Recycling Bin: Scary Scooby Funnies (1984)

ABC was in a bit of a dither less than a month into the 1984-5 season. Wolf Rock TV, a collaborative effort between DIC & Dick Clark's production company, was given a very quick hook due to poor ratings, and the network needed something to fill the time.

It was decided to add a 2nd half hour of Scooby-Doo to the schedule instead of looking for fresh product, and so, the Scary Scooby Funnies was installed to replace Wolf Rock. This series was just a recycled, repackaged Scooby & Scrappy Doo, with mostly episodes from seasons 2 and 3, when it was just the dogs and Shaggy. By this point, of course, Daphne had rejoined them for The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which would morph into 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo the next year. In fact, Scary used the same theme song as the newer series, but the bigger difference, as you'll notice, is the use of announcer Dick Tufeld, who moved over from Ruby-Spears that season. Here's the open:

Maybe this explains why Scrappy gets so much hate, as it seems ABC was bent on shoving him down the viewers throats.

Rating: None. Didn't watch this rerun-fest.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends vs. a tribe of Bigfoot (1980)

It's funny. Perhaps the most recurring character to appear on ABC during the late 70's was Bigfoot. The producers of The Six Million Dollar Man utilized Bigfoot in a couple of episodes of that series, and, then, there was the heroic version starring in the Kroffts' Bigfoot & Wildboy. In 1980, it was Hanna-Barbera's turn, and, oh, did they go overboard!

Not only do the Super Friends encounter one Bigfoot, but a whole tribe of them in this 1980 short.

It's too bad Walking Eagle was never heard from again. The writers never even considered the prospect of having Apache Chief play matchmaker and arrange a date with Jayna........

Rating: B+.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Plastic Man (2006)

As much as Cartoon Network has gotten bashed for some idiotic decisions, such as the development of live-action programming under current network boss Stuart Snyder, they really missed the bus by rejecting a proposed revival of Plastic Man, co-produced & developed by and starring comic Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants).

Kenny and creative partners Andy Suriano and Stephen DiStefano, the latter a veteran comic book writer/artist who cut his teeth at DC in the early 80's, created a pastiche of artistic styles, mixing together the familiar, left-of-center designs of John Kricfalusi (ex-Ren & Stimpy), Jack Cole (Plas' creator), & Kyle Baker, who wrote & drew a Plastic Man miniseries for DC a few years back. Fellow funnyman Dave Coulier (ex-Full House) voices Plas' parole officer, Archie. Now, sit back and take a look, and let me know if CN really did screw up this time.......

The way I see it, had CN bought the pilot, given the mature humor, this would've been ticketed for [adult swim]. Luckily for us and for Tom Kenny, Plas would eventually land on CN as a frequent guest on Batman: The Brave & the Bold, with nods to the classic comics (Woozy Winks would make his TV debut) and the 1979-81 ABC series.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You Know the Voice: Janet Waldo, sitcom star (1964)

Janet Waldo is better known for her extensive resume as a voice actress, first on radio in Meet Corliss Archer (she turned down the television version), then in cartoons. You know most of the characters, including Judy Jetson, Penelope Pitstop, and Princess from Battle of the Planets.

Janet has done some "face acting", the term used for voice actors doing live-action work, but not a whole lot. In 1964, she landed the female lead in the short-lived ABC sitcom, Valentine's Day, playing opposite series stars Tony Franciosa (later of Name of the Game) & Jack Soo (Barney Miller). If you've ever wondered what one of the grand dames of voice acting actually looked like, well, here she is........!

Edit: 7/28/15: The video has been deleted by YouTube. If/when someone else puts it up, we'll bring it back.

Janet is still active at the age of 87, currently back in radio, doing Adventures in Odyssey for the Christian group, Focus on the Family. It's been a long time, however, since she last did any cartoon work......

You don't see this kind of ad anymore..... (1973)

In addition to what was an on-again, off-again tradition of airing a half-hour sneak preview special on the eve of the cartoon season, ABC in 1973 thought it might be a good idea to devote some in-house ad space to give parents a heads-up about their children's programming slate for the coming season. To tell you the honest truth, I never saw this ad until now.

Actor Michael Constantine (Room 222) is the speaker in this spot, uploaded by RetroGoop. Note that Schoolhouse Rock was listed as Scholastic Rock at the top of the list. Seems Scholastic Books was claiming copyright infringement or somesuch, hence the change to the iconic title we'd all come to love.

Edit, 2/15/18: RetroGoop's account apparently has been discontinued, and the video has been deleted by YouTube. Sorry 'bout that.

This year, ABC is going with an all-live-action lineup to fulfull FCC E/I requirements, as they're making the same experimental move that NBC made nearly 20 years ago in excising cartoons from their Saturday slate. That lineup goes into effect on September 3, getting a headstart on the other networks. Now, don't ya think they'll be getting letters from irate kids who wanted to see Phineas & Ferb instead of Jack Hanna's new animal show? We'll see.

Game Time: Dragon's Lair (1984)

Cartoons based on video games were becoming quite the trend in the mid-80's. Ruby-Spears held licenses for a good number of them, lumping a few together for their first CBS entry, Saturday Supercade. Over on ABC, the studio adapted the video game Dragon's Lair for television in 1984, but it lasted just one season.

I remember the video game more than I can recall the TV show, I have to admit. I spent quite a bit of time at the local arcade, and while I never played the game, I was accustomed to the narration by voice-over vet Michael Rye (Super Friends). Rye didn't work on the TV show, however, for whatever reason. Mschwartz311 uploaded the open to YouTube:

Comic Bob Sarlatte, a frequent guest on David Letterman's talk shows during those days, both daytime and late night, was the voice behind Dirk the Daring. While the animators used the character designs created by former Disney artist Don Bluth, for some reason it just didn't translate very well on television. IIRC, Lair had the Super Friends for a lead-in, though I cannot be entirely certain of that. Well, at least it was better than a certain sentient game that was tried a year earlier....!

Rating: None. Never watched the show.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Herculoids (1967)

Hanna-Barbera expanded on its universe of super adventure in 1967, taking viewers to the jungle world of Amzot, later renamed Quasar, home of The Herculoids.

Zandor (Mike Road, ex-Jonny Quest) was the team leader and unofficial ruler of his world, as we rarely, if at all, saw any other humans on Amzot, aside from Zandor's wife, Tara, and their son, Dorno (Ted Eccles). The emphasis was on the collection of creatures that formed the Herculoids. Spm1975 uploaded this open, narrated by Road:

Unbelievably, Road was also the voice behind most of the Herculoids, if not all of them. Who knew he had that kind of talent in him? Road & Virginia Gregg (Tara) were the lone cast members to return when the series was revived as part of the 1981 Space Stars series, which would mark the end of his association with Hanna-Barbera. Today, reruns of the series pop up from time to time on Boomerang, usually in late night, and the series was just recently released on DVD. Could the Herculoids return to action in the near future? As long as it's done right!!

Rating: A.

Saturtainment: Out of the Blue (1979)

Historians tend to forget that the 1979-80 Saturday Morning season was delayed by a couple of weeks for reasons largely unknown (the writers strike hit the following year). ABC, needing to fill time, decided to experiment by showcasing one of their first year primetime sitcoms.

Out of the Blue was the latest to come from the Miller/Milkis/Boyett stable, which at the time was associated with Paramount, and had slight ties to one of ABC's top sitcoms, Happy Days. Emphasis on slight.

Blue actually had more in common with Mork & Mindy, which was beginning its 2nd season. In fact, Mork himself (Robin Williams) made a guest appearance on the opener, and seemed to be plenty familiar with Random, an angel sent from Heaven to watch over a family. Mork greeted Random with the line, "Hey, brother! Sell me some wind!", which I thought was pretty funny. Unfortunately for Random (Jimmy Brogan), he couldn't rely on Mork to help bring the laughs on a regular basis, and Blue was given a quick hook from the primetime lineup.

Gilmore Box uploaded the open to YouTube:

As I noted, Random had also appeared on Happy Days in order to prevent Chachi (Scott Baio) from selling his soul to the devil. It was just one of those deals where they had gone to the creative well one time too many. ABC would've been better off keeping Blue on Saturday mornings after all......

Rating: C.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturtainment: Learning the Ropes (1988)

I regret that I never got to see an episode of Learning the Ropes, a short-lived, syndicated sitcom about a high school teacher/principal, played by former NFL star Lyle Alzado, who moonlights as a professional wrestler. A number of stars from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) appeared on the show, and the series was, in fact, promoted on NWA programming at the time. No station in my home market was willing to take a chance on the show, and I do not recall TBS, the home of WCW, even finding a consistent space for the show, if they even aired it at all. Here's the open:

As I understand it, Ropes was meant to air on Saturday mornings or afternoons in the markets where it played. As I noted, the series lasted one season. Sadly, Alzado, who played for the Broncos & Raiders in the NFL, passed away a few years later. For what it's worth, Alzado never actually wrestled. Steve "Dr. Death" Williams served as Alzado's "stunt double".

Executive Producer Robert Halmi, Jr., on the other hand, recovered nicely from the failure of Ropes. You might be familiar with his later works, including adaptations of literary classics like "Gulliver's Travels" into made-for-TV movies or miniseries for Hallmark's television arm.

Rating: None.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Toonfomercial: Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985)

In the mid-1980s, Disney decided to dive into producing animated series for television. One of their first efforts was Adventures of the Gummi Bears, which spent 4 seasons on NBC, then shifted to ABC for 1, and finished its run on weekdays as part of the Disney Afternoon anthology block.

The series called attention to the gummi bear candies that were becoming rather popular in those days. The producers, realizing that the series would act as a lead-in to NBC's #1 show of the period, Smurfs, set the series in a similar time frame. Gummi Bears, insofar as I know, may be one of the few series that the late Bill Scott, long associated with Jay Ward, had worked on after the Ward studio had closed. Here is the intro:

Sadly, the series now languishes in Disney's vaults, as there seems to be no interest in putting it on either Disney Channel or DisneyXD.

Rating: B.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Magnificent Muttley (1969)

We told you before about the backup feature to Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, in which Muttley would have Walter Mitty-style daydreams. In this example, a clear case of Muttley wishing he had the courage to stand up to Dick Dastardly, envisions himself as "The Masked Muttley", in a parody of The Lone Ranger and other Western heroes. The fact that Dastardly has a television contradicts the entire concept of the main portion of the series......

Sadly, as the series was cancelled, no thought was ever given to letting Muttley have a whole half-hour for his daydreams, but in reality, these shorts were the best part of the show. Unfortunately, the intro to this feature was not included in the clip.

Rating: B.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Conan & the Young Warriors (1994)

With Conan returning to the big screen this weekend, let's take a step back in time to when Robert E. Howard's barbarian was given a crack at Saturday morning stardom.

Conan & the Young Warriors was the follow-up to the weekday, syndicated Conan the Adventurer, which had bowed two years earlier. As before, Conan is more of a watered down version of the brutal hero of Howard's novels and the comic books. You won't see Red Sonja or even Belit, who was to Conan what Catwoman was to Batman, or so it seems.

Here's a sample episode:

Even though syndicated shows had been amping up the violence for about a decade by the time this series came along, Conan was beholden to network censors at CBS as well as the pesky parental watchdog groups, and thus no one was ever killed.

I never saw the show, so I can't give a fair rating.

You Know the Voice: "The King of the Countdowns" nearly hit the charts himself! (1964)

Long before Casey Kasem forged his legendary career in cartoons, he had been well established in radio. During a stint in San Francisco, Casey recorded a spoken word single, "A Letter From Elaina", in 1964. "Letter" didn't quite make it onto the Top 40, but it would ultimately be the forerunner to the "Long Distance Dedication" segment on American Top 40, the long-running radio series Kasem launched in 1970, and continues to this day with American Idol host Ryan Seacrest as the current host. "Letter" was also Casey's only studio recording of note. Nearly 40 years later, some of his work as Shaggy on Scooby-Doo was included on the "Scooby's Snack Tracks" compilation CD. Since the story on the record involves the Beatles, I'm willing to bet a lot of Beatles mermorabilia collectors either have copies of this single, or are looking for them. A photo slide show of Kasem accompanies the track:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toonfomercial: Does a dog really like breakfast cereal? (1969)

As long as we're dealing with Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, the appropriately named Muttley16 offers up this gem of a commercial, one of the last of its kind. Hanna-Barbera had a licensing deal with Kellogg's during the studio's early years, and one of the last ads the company produced features the Vulture Squadron shilling for Frosted Flakes, with the help of some additional birds, after Muttley is unable to nab Yankee Doodle Pigeon.

It's also rare in that Klunk speaks a full sentence without using sound effects. I dare Boomerang to play this ad!

Saturtainment: Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines (1969)

With Wacky Races in perpetual repeat and buried at the bottom of the CBS lineup, Hanna-Barbera placed three new series on the network schedule, including two spin-offs from Races. We've previously covered The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, so now it's time to give Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines some equal time.

As with Perils, Dick Dastardly (Paul Winchell) and his partner-in-crime, Muttley (Don Messick, of course) had their own series set in a different period, in this case, somewhere around World War 1, some have speculated. Now, they're 1/2 of the Vulture Squadron, an eccentric outfit with one goal in mind, capturiing Yankee Doodle Pigeon. The other half of the Squadron consisted of a neurotic named Zilly (Messick) and a mechanical genius known simply as Klunk (Messick again), who spoke mostly with sound effects, requiring Zilly to be his interpreter. If Dastardly wasn't frustrated enough being thwarted during the Races, imagine how it feels when every mission is a failure!

Here's the intro everyone knows. Hewey1972 uploaded it. Winchell, in character, sings the theme song.

There was a backup feature with Muttley having Walter Mitty-like daydreams, and we'll cover that another time.

Rating: B.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rein-Toon-Ation: Spider-Man Unlimited (1999)

After just a year away, Spider-Man returned to Fox's Saturday morning lineup in 1999, only to discover just how much the ratings landscape had changed in his absence.

In Spider-Man Unlimited, the web-head heads for Counter Earth to retrieve astronaut John Jameson, son of Daily Bugle editor-publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Here's the intro:

Pokemon, having been a mid-season pickup by WB earlier in the year, is the hottest cartoon on the planet at the time, and blows away Spidey in the ratings, such that Fox pulled the plug after less than a month. Didn't help that the series was late in starting for reasons known only to the network. Unlimited would later return to burn off the remaining episodes. Marvel produced a companion comic book, which also was given a quick hook.

As with Avengers: United They Stand, which bowed that same season and ran into the same problems, Unlimited was produced by Saban in conjunction with Marvel's own animation studio, and was one of the last entries in this collaboration (Silver Surfer was also part of this group). Spidey, of course, has since recovered to star in two more series since. DisneyXD holds the cable rights to the series, but doesn't run it in key air slots.

Rating: B.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday School: Ark II (1976)

Filmation had hit its first pothole with their live-action line in 1975, as Ghost Busters & Uncle Croc's Block were both cancelled after 1 season. The studio forged ahead with their 4th entry for CBS, Ark II, but it too would end up a 1-year wonder.

Soap star Terry Lester (Young & the Restless) was cast as Jonah, the pilot of the title vehicle, and leader of a roving research team in this futuristic sci-fi series, set in the 25th century, but nowhere near where Buck Rogers had been, and Buck would later surface over on NBC 4 years later. All of the central characters, including a talking chimp named Adam (voiced by co-executive producer Lou Scheimer), were named after Biblical characters from the Old Testament, but insofar as I knew, there weren't any plotlines with Biblical connotations.

Anyway, uploaded the series premiere, "The Flies", with guest stars Malachi Throne (ex-It Takes a Thief) and Jonathan Harris (ex-Lost In Space), who had co-starred on Uncle Croc and would headline Ark II's replacement, Space Academy, the following season. The opening, unfortunately, has been edited off.

The fact that Ark II had failed suggests that the live-action movement had already peaked, and, in terms of scheduling, things would be back to normal by the start of the 80's.

Rating: B.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: WildC.A.T.S. (1994)

1994 was a big year for Image Comics in that they landed their first television deals for their properties, but neither would be very successful in the long haul.

Sam Kieth's The Maxx was picked up by MTV as part of their primetime series, Oddities, but for reasons known only to Kieth and the network, Maxx would not make his television debut until almost a year after he was supposed to, sealing his fate. By the time Maxx hit the air, Image's other entry had come and gone.

Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S. was adapted by Canada's Nelvana Studios, which sold the series to CBS. So far, so good, right? Wrong. The series debuted two weeks later than it was supposed to due to unforeseen delays in production. Worse, CBS scheduled the series to air at 11 am (ET), when some network affiliates were blacking out network shows in favor of more profitable syndicated programming.

Here's the open:

As it turns out, that two week delay at the start of the season proved costly, as WildC.A.T.S. was cancelled after 1 season. The comic book proved to have a much longer shelf life. What may have hurt the show, more than anything, was that most casual fans weren't familiar with Image Comics as they were DC or Marvel. Two of the characters, Voodoo & Grifter, will be starring in their own separate DC books starting next month, nearly 20 years after their debut. The others? Wait & see, methinks.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saturday School: NBC Junior Hall of Fame (1977)

It was NBC's 1st attempt at creating a series of short in-between-show pieces to compete with Schoolhouse Rock on ABC and In The News on CBS. However, for some odd reason, the Junior Hall of Fame, though noble in concept, failed to keep viewers from changing the channel. 70sKidVid offers up this sample clip about a 9 year old swimmer:

NBC commissioned producer Alan Landsburg (In Search Of....) to produce the Junior Hall of Fame shorts, which if memory serves lasted just the one season. NBC would try again with other, similar bits, such as One to Grow On in the 80's. In the meantime, Landsburg would do business with NBC again, producing the 80's sitcom, Gimme A Break!, starring Nell Carter.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Tick (1994)

Rare is the time when a superhero comic book from a publisher other than Marvel or DC makes it to television. Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were nearing the end of their first network run on CBS around the time that Ben Edlund's The Tick made the transition to television.

The Tick debuted on Fox in 1994 and hung around until November 1996, two months into the 3rd season. Sunbow Entertainment, which had adapted a number of Hasbro properties (i.e. Transformers, G. I. Joe) since the 80's, landed the license to bring Edlund's satire of the superhero genre to the small screen. Comedian Townsend Coleman was cast in the title role, but they went through two actors as Tick's generic sidekick, Arthur, who dressed in a white moth suit, but opted not to use a secret identity. Arthur was originally voiced by ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz, but Rob Paulsen took over the role in season 2 for unknown reasons.

Macka8 uploaded the open to YouTube:

After its Fox run, the series wound up on Comedy Central, where it became a cult favorite. Disney owns the rights to the series, and had it airing on Toon Disney (now DisneyXD) a few years ago, but it currently languishes in the vaults. The series is available on DVD, however.

Rating: B.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Astro & the Space Mutts (1981)

If there was any singular reason why Space Stars was cancelled after 1 season, it would be the square peg in the round hole that was Astro & the Space Mutts.

Spun off from The Jetsons, Astro (Don Messick) was rebooted as a comic sidekick to Space Ace (Michael Bell), and with some new canine pals, to boot. For serious superhero fans, this was the kitchen break part of the show, if you will, a campy comedy relief segment amidst the exploits of Space Ghost, The Herculoids, & The Teen Force.

Now, scope out the opener, "Night of the Crab":

Clearly, Astro just didn't fit in, and would return when The Jetsons was revived in 1985. If Hanna-Barbera really wanted this to work, Astro would've been a stand-alone series instead.

Rating: D.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Literary Toons: Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975)

With "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" dominating the box office this week, I thought I'd take a look back at the lone animated entry in the "Apes" franchise.

Return to the Planet of the Apes had a tough act to follow when it debuted on NBC in 1975. After all, Star Trek had just ended a 2 year animated voyage, and the network needed a new tentpole around which to build their Saturday morning block. DePatie-Freleng had entered into an agreement with 20th Century Fox to produce Return, a year after Fox had made the gallant attempt to put Planet in primetime, over on CBS. Strangely, producers Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, who'd moved to DFE from Hanna-Barbera three years earlier, and had worked on the live-action Planet series, are not attached to this cartoon, which would've been the coda to their DFE run. They would return to H-B the next year for 2 years before launching their own studio.

Here's a sample of Return:

The character designs were a far, far cry from the usual DFE fare, thanks to the genius move of signing Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey as a member of the show's creative staff. Unfortunately, viewers turned off Return, just as they did the live-action series the year before, and it was cancelled after 1 season. You'd think someone would've had the stones to bring this show out of the vaults with the new movie out, but nooooooo!

Rating: A.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Buford Files (1978)

Originally conceived as a component of Yogi's Space Race, The Buford Files would later be spun off to share a half-hour with The Galloping Ghost in the winter of 1979, as the 90 minute Space Race was bombing, much to the surprise (maybe) of NBC executives.

Buford and his owners, Woody & Cindy Mae, were another set of amateur detectives molded in the pattern of Scooby-Doo. Unlike Scooby, however, Buford's favorite pastime was sleeping.

Here's the series opener, "The Swamp Hermit". The video is taken from when Buford and Ol' Nugget Nose were spun off into their own show:

In case you couldn't tell, the Sheriff on this show, portrayed as a bit of a bungler, was modeled after another Buford, one Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) in the "Smokey & the Bandit" movies. Unfortunately, Buford was kennelled after one season, and hasn't been heard from again since.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Game Time: Pole Position (1984)

One of the popular trends in the mid-80's was to adapt games of just about any kind into a cartoon. That included video games, and Namco's Pole Position was one of the most popular games going at the time.

Thus, DIC acquired a license to adapt the game into an action-adventure series that aired on CBS in 1984. Unfortunately, the series lasted just one season. Maybe the cheesy theme song composed by Shuki Levy & Haim Saban had something to do with that, and, yes, they did come up with some clunkers. JediJuggernaut uploaded the opening & closing credits.

I never watched the show, and I never played the game. Despite the promising concept, the music may have in fact doomed the show.

Rating: None.