Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes (?): Snagglepuss vs. The Rain Dance Kid (1960)

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Snagglepuss wasn't really heroic, just opportunistic. Convienent, even!

Basing his voice on Bert Lahr ("The Wizard of Oz"), Daws Butler presented Snagglepuss as a hammy actor in one story, or at least a fan of the arts, given that one of his pet phrases is "Exit.....stage left!". In other cases, such as 1960's "Lion's Share Sheriff", Snag just walks right into a situation and adapts quickly, as the outlaw known as the Rain Dance Kid (Mel Blanc) finds out to his dismay. Oh, the horror!

Unfortunately, the video has been deleted. If/when it returns, we'll bring it back.

Butler, of course, would recycle his Snagglepuss voice 11 years later for The Funky Phantom, but Snag would return in Yogi's Gang soon after that.

Rating: B.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Daytime Heroes: Rambo (1986)

Figure this one out, if you can.

David Morrell's Vietnam veteran turned anti-hero, John Rambo, transitioned into a kid-friendly-for-the-purpose-of-selling-toys cartoon hero in a short-lived syndicated series from Ruby-Spears which first started as a 1-week, 5-part miniseries in the winter of 1986. Rambo then graduated to an "ongoing" series that fall, but lasted just the one season, with the last original episodes airing before Christmas.

Rambo (Neil Ross) still answers to General Trautman (Alan Oppenheimer), but now has a support team that includes a mistress of disguise, Kat, and a mechanical whiz, Turbo (James Avery, ex-Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling), among others, characters that were created for a toy line. No surprise there, eh?

Considering it was from Ruby-Spears, it should come as no shock, then, that the creative personnel on the show included comics veterans Gil Kane and Jack Kirby, who were on staff at R-S at the time.

Rambo's Force of Freedom team fought daily against the machinations of General Warhawk (Michael Ansara), whose very name implied his intentions. To me, he was a perennial loser who should've taken his medicine like a man, if you get my drift.

Anyway, here's the series opener, "First Strike":

Lionsgate now owns the rights to the series, which has been released on DVD in volume format, which might not be so bad.

Rating: B.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Pirates of Dark Water (1991)

As anti-violence restrictions that had been in place since 1968 were either being abolished or eased out, a doorway was opened for a return to swashbuckling adventure, the likes of which hadn't been seen since '68's Arabian Knights. Fortunately, the newest series of this kind came from the same studio.....

The Pirates of Dark Water began as a 5-part miniseries that aired on Fox in February 1991. However, 7 months later, the series moved to ABC, with the miniseries encored over the first five weeks. It was also the first---and to my knowledge, the only---series created by David Kirschner ("Child's Play"), who was with Hanna-Barbera at the time.

Dark Water's central plot centered on Ren (George Newbern) and his battle with Lord Bloth (Brock Peters), while at the same time trying to save Mer from the titular menace, the dark water that threatened to consume Mer.

In an interesting turn of events, when the series changed networks, Kirschner and his casting directors made a change with Nibbler, Ren's sidekick. Originally voiced by the inestimable Roddy McDowell, the role was recast with Frank Welker dubbing over McDowell's original vocals.

Now, here's the intro:

 The early success of the series led to a 9-issue comic book, published by Marvel, but the show ended without Ren and his crew finishing their quest. The series was cancelled in 1993 after 2 seasons.

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future (1987)

One of the earliest attempts to use CGI animation on television came in 1987 with the syndicated science-fiction series, Captain Power & The Soldiers of The Future, which boasted a standout creative team including television vets such as Michael Reaves, J. Michael Straczynski, Christy Marx, and comics writers Marv Wolfman and Steve Gerber, the latter of whom had been responsible for an earlier post-apocalyptic sci-fi hero, Thundarr the Barbarian.

Tim Dunigan, who'd played Templeton "Face" Peck in the A-Team pilot 4 years earlier, stars as Capt. Jonathan Power. Veteran Sunn Classics announcer Brad Crandall is heard providing the opening narration. There were plans for a second season following the cliffhanger finale, but protests from parent-driven focus groups over the show's violent, adult content scuttled those plans.

As memory serves me, Captain Power aired in an early morning slot on Saturdays, around 7:30 am (ET), at least in the East. The series was released on DVD last year, just in time to mark the show's 25th anniversary this year. Believe it or else, there is enough fan interest such that the series has a Facebook page. Who'da thunk, right?

Anyway, here's the series premiere, "Shattered".

Mattel produced a toy line, but a lot of the dialogue meant the series was aimed more at teens and adults, rather than young children, and that was at the heart of the protests. To me, the early air time was the wrong time, as it should've aired around lunch, when parents can watch with their children and help explain the plot. Of course, Saturday afternoons in the fall mean plenty of sports (college football in particular), so while it was a more appropriate option, it wasn't utilized, and that decision proved costly.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Daytime Heroes: The Super Mario Brothers Super Show! (1989)

Part sitcom, part anthology, The Super Mario Brothers Super Show was a collaborative effort of Nintendo and DIC, distributed initially by Viacom, that aired in syndication from 1989-91. Only one season's worth of episodes was produced and cycled through 2 seasons.

Each episode was bookended with a live-action sitcom, complete with laugh track, with former WWE personality Capt. Lou Albano (ex-Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling) as Mario and Danny Wells, who'd been with DIC off and on for a few years, as Luigi. Wells might be known to some primetime viewers for some guest roles on shows like The Jeffersons. For Albano, this was his last series gig, after appearing in films like "Wise Guys" with Joe Piscopo & Danny DeVito, and he'd return to the WWE in the early 90's for a brief comeback run. Albano & Wells also voiced the animated Mario & Luigi in cartoons that aired Monday-Thursday, with The Legend of Zelda airing on Fridays.

A second Mario Bros. series, Super Mario World, would air on NBC the next year, with Zelda also airing there as part of a block with Captain N: The Game Master, part of a last hurrah for animation on NBC at that time.

Anyway, here's the series opener, from 1989. The time spent doing skits on Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling 4 years earlier served Albano well, and he adjusted nicely, having shed his trademark rubber bands to play Mario.

The series was last seen on the then-Family Channel in the mid-90's in a repackaged anthology that also included Super Mario World. Canada's Cookie Jar Entertainment, which acquired DIC a couple of years back, now holds the rights to the series, but due to rights issues involving Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who guest-starred in one episode, a subsequent DVD release was incomplete.

Rating: B.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Spiderversary: The Origin of Spider-Man (1968)

When ABC renewed Spider-Man for a 2nd season, they wound up getting a completely new look in terms of animation, though the voice cast remains the same. Ralph Bakshi moved over from Terrytoons to helm the series after Grantray-Lawrence lost the contract following season 1. Here, Bakshi offers a slightly different take on the webspinner's origin.

As we've documented previously, a more definitive rendition of the origin came 14 years later on Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. Bakshi gave it the ol' college try, but came up a wee bit short.

Rating: B.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturtainment: That Metal Show (2008)

VH1 Classic, a digital-only sister network to VH1, launched That Metal Show in 2008, but because cable networks define seasons differently than broadcast networks do, the series is about to begin its 11th season as it marks four years on the air. The reason is that each season is kept short, averaging 8-10 episodes per cycle. 2-2 1/2 months, and then, into reruns.

That Metal Show is hosted by New York-based radio personality Eddie Trunk and comedians Jim Florentine (ex-Crank Yankers) & Don Jamieson. The series began as a half-hour program, and the standard arrangement has new episodes airing in late night on Saturdays, with repeats sprinkled throughout the week, including Saturday mornings & afternoons. As this weekend concludes, VH1 Classic is marking the show's 4-year anniversary with a weekend-long marathon airing virtually every episode made up to this point. In case anyone wonders, Florentine also co-wrote the show's theme song. Who knew?

These days, in between "seasons", Jamieson is pulling double duty, as he was hired by SportsNet New York as the new host of its traveling sports game show, Beer Money, replacing SNY regular Chris Carlin, probably because Jamieson may actually be a little more telegenic. That Metal Show was originally taped in New York, then shifted to California a couple of years back, along the way expanding from its original half-hour format to a full hour and adding guest musicians to entertain the audience.

Edit, 10/8/19: Had to change the video. Here, we have a collection of "Stump The Trunk" segments with a variety of celebrity guests, ranging from Sammy Hagar and Sebastian Bach to Chris Jericho:

I'm waiting for them to do a crossover with MTV's Beavis & Butt-Head, which would really put the show on the map.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Pac-Man Fever (1982)

Nothing says "1-hit wonder" like this 1982 ode to a certain video arcade game that also became a Saturday morning cartoon that same year.

Buckner & Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever" celebrated Midway Games' signature arcade classic, and in all probability, most people might still remember this over the Hanna-Barbera Pac-Man cartoon that happened to air earlier on Saturdays on American Bandstand's home network, ABC. Luisflashback uploaded this choice clip.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Saturtainment: Sha Na Na (1977)

In the 70's, it seemed like everyone and his brother was getting a variety show. Today, they're getting talk shows, but it's pretty much the same.

Sha Na Na, a 10-man ensemble, had their first big break at Woodstock in 1969, then made the rounds of guest appearances on other variety shows, appearing with Flip Wilson and Andy Williams, among others. In 1977, Pierre Cossette, better known for having produced a myriad of awards shows, such as the Oscars & Emmys, decided to take a chance on producing a weekly series. The end result was Sha Na Na getting 4 years worth of fun with a weekly comedy-variety show that rode the tidal wave of nostalgia that started with George Lucas' "American Graffitti", and continued with Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley.

Everyone has their favorites among the band members, and a large number of posters on YouTube favor Johnny Contardo, who covered the Reflections' "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet", The Tymes' "So Much in Love", and the Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", just to name a few. However, it was Bowzer (Jon Bauman) who was being posited as the star of the show. He opened most episodes, and closed them all with his signature tag line, "Grease for peace". After the series, Bauman shed the grease and tried his hand at being a game show host, after having appeared in character on Match Game, Password Plus, and Celebrity Charades, among others. However, both of his game shows, The Pop 'N' Rocker Game & The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, which launched within weeks of each other in 1983, were cancelled in a year's time. From there, Bauman signed on with VH1 as one of their first on-air talents, and began doing voice work at Hanna-Barbera on a few projects. These days, he's gone back to the grease and his Bowzer persona, but the years have not been kind, as a recent Time-Life informercial reveals. Once skinny as a rail, Bauman has packed on the pounds since leaving VH1.

Saxophonist Lennie Baker made a guest appearance on the 1979 revival of Make Me Laugh, but my memory is hazy on whether or not any of the others got to spin off on their own during the series' run. Their only other movie appearance, aside from the "Woodstock" feature film, was in 1978's "Grease", in which they appeared as Johnny Casino & the Gamblers. Subsequently, the band, with Contardo on vocals, covered the theme from "Grease" during season 2.

Not every classic oldie was done straight. In some cases, songs were used to build some comedy sketches, such as the one in the video following shortly. To help the boys have an understanding of television comedy, veterans Avery Schreiber (ex-My Mother The Car) and Soupy Sales were part of the repertory company. Schreiber, who had his own series with long-time partner Jack Burns and had been a Saturday morning foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, left after 1 season, presumably replaced by Sales, who stuck around until the series' end. Announcer Pamela Myers also appeared in front of the camera as Ginger, the femme fatale foil/love interest for the boys. There were a couple of occasions where she was also called on to sing, and covered Lesley Gore's "It's My Party", then teamed with Contardo to do "Hey, Paula", proving she was more than an equal to the guys. A vastly overlooked talent.

Sha Na Na, while airing during the week on local television, also aired on weekends on the NBC affiliate in Utica, WKTV, which is why it's included here in the Archives. Foofsmom, one of the devoted fans I referenced earlier, uploaded this skit, in which the guys toss in some bad gags to pad out the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop".

A slightly smaller version of the ensemble still tours today, but with only two of the classic lineup, Screaming Scott Simon and Jocko Marcellino, still on the road.

Rating: B.

Ranking the Bat-toons (1968-2012)

Two weeks ago, we did a similar piece covering Spider-Man's rich history in animation. This time, with "The Dark Knight Rises" opening at midnight tonight, we'll do the same for Batman, who's had not quite as many series, and we will not include the 13-year Super Friends run.

The Adventures of Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder (CBS, 1968-70): Originally 1/2 of the Batman-Superman Hour, the show was split off and moved to Sundays for season 2. Olan Soule (Dragnet) and future radio icon Casey Kasem voiced the Dynamic Duo, Jane Webb, Filmation's #1 female talent, was Batgirl & Catwoman, and Ted Knight did almost everyone else. As I have noted previously, there has been debate over whether or not Knight actually was the voice of the Joker, as some have argued that it was actor-comedian Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop). Soule & Kasem, of course, would move over to Hanna-Barbera for a healthy run that started with The New Scooby-Doo Movies and 2 season 1 appearances, both involving Joker & Penguin, in 1972. Super Friends would launch in '73, and, well, you know that show's history, don't you?

The New Adventures of Batman (CBS 1977-80, NBC 1980-1): The live-action Dynamic Duo, Adam West & Burt Ward, reprised when Filmation gained a new license for the characters and sold this series to CBS as a mid-season replacement in February 1977. 7 months later, CBS merged it with Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle to form the Batman-Tarzan Adventure Hour, which a year later was expanded into Tarzan & The Super 7. After 2 seasons in that format, the reruns were shipped off to NBC, though Tarzan remained at CBS, now paired with a Filmation-produced Lone Ranger revival, and the show was renamed, Batman & The Super 7, which, when you think about it, was a bit of a misnomer, since Tarzan & Jason of Star Command weren't included. Melendy Britt took over as Batgirl, but some of the classic villains were missing, such as Riddler, who followed the Caped Crusaders to H-B the following year. New Adventures wasn't quite as campy, despite the addition of Bat-Mite, an imp who was introduced in the 50's, and was given a schoolboy crush on Batgirl for some unknown reason.

Batman: The Animated Series (Fox 1992-95): The most definitive animated interpretation of Batman, period. On the heels of "Batman Returns", Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and their staff retained the changes made to Penguin (now presented as a mutant) and Catwoman (blonde on the show due to her characterization in the movie), but also brought some other villains into the mix who hadn't previously been used, such as Two-Face (Richard Moll, ex-Night Court), Maxie Zeus, and Poison Ivy. As I noted the other day, the series also brought out a different side of the Joker (Mark Hamill, and, for a brief time, Tim Curry) by giving him a girlfriend in Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin, Days of Our Lives). Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) was more (girl)friend than foe here, but wasn't privy to Batman's secret identity of Bruce Wayne, although the reverse held true.

The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Fox 1995-97?, WB 1997-99?): After "Batman Forever", Fox & WB felt the need not only to relaunch the series with a new title, but rebooting some of the character designs, such as substituting Catwoman's grey costume with a midnight black ensemble. The series soon shifted over to Kids' WB! to be paired with Superman: The Animated Series as The New Superman-Batman Adventures (The first series under that title was a rerun compilation WB packaged for cable, first for USA, and later for Cartoon Network).

Batman Beyond (Kids' WB! 1999-2002?): Set in a futuristic Gotham, Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) is now retired, and has passed the mantle of the Bat to Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle, ex-Boy Meets World), who then gets a Rogues' Gallery all his own. In this version, Barbara Gordon (Stockard Channing) has retired her Batgirl persona and inherited her father's role as Commissioner. Ended too soon in some respects.

The Batman (Kids' WB/CW 2003-8): Former Sony producer Duane Capizzi and former Image Comics aritst Jeff Matsuda, who'd worked on Sony's Jackie Chan Adventures, were brought aboard for this series, which took a different look at Batman's early years. Catwoman (Gina Gershon) was given a new look--again--, but there was still plenty of flirting between Catwoman & Batman (Rino Romano). However, giving Joker a Rastafarian hairdo as a barefoot, hippie psycho was a turn-off. Penguin was played up as being in the same tax bracket at the Waynes, and even moved in next door to Wayne Manor in one episode. Wack!

Batman: The Brave & The Bold (Cartoon Network 2009-11): After 17 years of dark, gritty Bat-ventures, it was time to brighten and lighten things up. This last series was based on the long-running The Brave & The Bold book that Batman starred in for much of its initial run. Diedrich Bader (ex-The Zeta Project, The Drew Carey Show) did a near-perfect Kevin Conroy mimic as Batman, and while fans have their favorites, like cross-overs with Space Ghost and Scooby-Doo, the latter recalling the 1972 meetings of the two icons, the series, again, ended too soon. Then again, the suits at both CN & WB have made some boneheaded decisions on a number of other issues..........! Season 1 included an ongoing storyline regarding the made-for-TV villain, Equinox, but after that, and after Starro appeared in season 2, it was mostly done-in-one stories the rest of the way.

Due next year, and reportedly in CGI, is Beware the Batman, which previewed last week at Comic-Con International in San Diego. That will also air on Cartoon Network, which has picked up the Fox/WB habit of shuttling shows in and out of the lineup, with the concept of "seasons" having been redefined in cable parlance in recent years. However, given the shabby treatment given to certain fan favorites on the network, I'd be very wary.

Ranking them in order:

1. Batman: The Animated Series/The Adventures of Batman & Robin
2. Batman: The Brave & The Bold
3. The Adventures of Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder 
4. The New Adventures of Batman
5. Batman Beyond
6. The Batman

Discuss & debate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Looney TV: Ali Baba Bunny (1957)

You might say that Chuck Jones could smell the money when he paired Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck in a cartoon. By the latter part of the 50's, however, Daffy was morphing into a greedy, scheming, sniveling slime who'd sell out his supposed best friend, Bugs, to get what he wanted.

In "Ali Baba Bunny", they make a wrong turn in New Mexico, and it somehow lands them in the Middle East, where it's supposed to still be the Arabian Nights? Wack, man, but the most fun is watching Daffy make a total fool of himself, and, yet, he doesn't learn his lesson.....

Rating: A.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Super Friends take a trip to Oz (1979)

Mr. Mxyptlk (Frank Welker) creates a tornado to transport the Hall of Justice, with Superman, Wonder Woman, & Aquaman inside, to Oz, or at least a simulcrum thereof, in this gem from the 1979 World's Greatest Super Friends series. As you'll see, this combines not only The Wizard of Oz, but also elements of other stories, such as Hansel & Gretel.

Edit, 6/17/22: I've found an excerpt:

Well, you do have to admit Wonder Woman does make a fetching lioness. Not so sure about Aquaman as a scarecrow, or Superman as the Tin Man, though.

Rating: A+.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday Funnies: Captain Planet (1990)

Cable mogul Ted Turner decided he had an idea for a cartoon for his flagship network, TBS, back in 1990. The end result was a Sunday afternoon adventure series, Captain Planet & The Planeteers, which was originally produced by DIC in conjunction with Turner Program Sales, and aired as a lead-in to WCW wrestling programming, right around the dinner hour.

The theme, of course, was protecting the environment. Captain Planet (David Coburn) would be summoned by the rings worn by 5 teenagers from different parts of the world, and, aside from the Planeteers, answered to Gaia (Whoopi Goldberg). The opposition came from adults more interested in their own self-interests, while allowing pollution to despoil the earth. The celebrity-laden talent roster included Meg Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, and Edward Asner, among others.

After the episodes cycled though ad infinitum over three years, Turner changed animation houses, switching from DIC to Hanna-Barbera, resulting in The New Adventures of Captain Planet, which soldiered on for 2 more seasons. The original open was redone, but was later replaced by a rap performed by B-52's frontman Fred Schneider, featuring some of the worst rapping of all time. The switch to H-B also allowed Planet, depending on where you lived, to be added to the final incarnation of Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, coupled with 2 Stupid Dogs & Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron. Reruns aired on Saturday mornings, again leading into WCW wrestling. Coincidentally, there was a rumor circulating that a gimmick tag team in WCW was being put together to correspond to another cartoon that never saw the light of day around the time that Planet debuted. Luckily, no one saw fit to try to shoehorn the Captain onto WCW.

Anyway, here's the original open & close to Captain Planet, with narration by Kwame (LeVar Burton, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Reading Rainbow):

Currently, reruns, at last check, were airing weekdays on Boomerang.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

You Know the Voice: Allen Swift (1954-5)

Our subject today, Allen Swift, is better known for his work in radio & cartoons. In the latter, his credits included Underdog (as Simon Bar Sinister, among others), and some Gene Deitch-era Tom & Jerry shorts.

However, here's a rare case of Allen in front of the camera. After Buffalo Bob Smith suffered a heart attack, someone had to fill in as the voice of Howdy Doody, and Swift capably filled in. Here, in a rare case, Howdy introduces a professor, also played by Swift. Cowabunga!

The video was deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Listen to the Mockingbird (1960)

From season 1 of The Flintstones comes this highlight reel of Fred's first attempt at at least posing as a rocker. Fred (Alan Reed) pretends to be a singer named Hi-Fye, and performs "Listen to the Mockingbird". However, it's Duke Mitchell, and not Henry Corden, doing the vocal dubbing here.

Uploaded by Tbirds65:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Toon Rock: Jem (1985)

More than 20 years before Hannah Montana, there was another rocker with a dual identity.

Jem was merely the alter-ego of music executive Jerrica Benton, but instead of a sitcom, Jem was what amounted to an animated soap opera when it debuted in 1985. Jerrica used a computer program, Synergy, to create her holographic alter-ego, and all that did, besides bring fame and notoriety, was the predictable love triangle. See, Jerrica's boyfriend, Rio, was also hot for Jem, not knowing both women were one and the same.

Jem was the latest to come from the tag team of Marvel Productions and Sunbow Entertainment, and managed to last three years, becoming a cult favorite along the way. Perhaps the soap aspects were a little appropriate, considering that in most markets, the series aired opposite the #1 soap in the country, General Hospital.

Here's the open.

The Hub has the rights to the series, and one wonders if, considering the Hasbro-owned network already has new incarnations of My Little Pony, GI Joe, Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake, Pound Puppies, & the Care Bears on their roster, they'd bring Jem back, too? The most amazing thing is that this was one series that Marvel didn't adapt into a comic book!

Rating: B.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tooniversary: Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Warner Bros. unveiled the crown jewel of its animation revival with Batman: The Animated Series, coming as it did on the heels of "Batman Returns" earlier in the summer of 1992. With the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises", opening next week, I thought we'd take a look back at the series that also revived the toon noir animation style that was originally created by the Fleischer brothers for their Superman shorts some 51 years earlier.

Fox's strategy was to debut the series on a Saturday morning, but otherwise air it after school on weekdays. There were some primetime airings, too, on a few Sundays early in the run, but it didn't matter. Batman launched what is known as the DC Animated Universe (DCAU), which of course differs from the DCU in the comics.

Job 1, obviously, was finding an actor who could create the appropriate mood for the Batman. Imitating Michael Keaton, who'd essayed the role in Tim Burton's two Bat-flicks, wasn't needed. Kevin Conroy (ex-Tour of Duty) landed the primo gig, and the resulting icon status that went with it. By comparison, that seemed easy. As for the rest, they actually went through two actors apiece for the Joker and Alfred, Batman's faithful butler. Graham Revill was originally cast as Alfred, but before the first season was over, 60's icon Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (ex-The F. B. I, Zorro) took over for Revill. Meanwhile, Tim Curry, still best remembered for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", was the first Joker, but he too was cast aside in favor of Mark Hamill ("Star Wars"), marking his return to cartoons after nearly 20 years away (Jeannie). Working on the show reunited Hamill with one of his Jeannie castmates, Bob Hastings (General Hospital), who was also returning to toons, having last worked for Hanna-Barbera in the late 70's (he was heard in a few Super Friends shorts) before signing on as Port Charles Police Captain (later Commissioner) Bert Ramsey. Coincidentally, that experience prepared Hastings to play Commissioner James Gordon.

The rest of the star studded cast included singer-songwriter Paul Williams as Penguin, Melissa Gilbert (ex-Little House on the Prarie) as Batgirl, Adrienne Barbeau ("Swamp Thing", ex-Maude) as Catwoman, and, in a nod to the live-action Batman of the 60's, Roddy McDowell as the Mad Hatter (who certainly got more mileage than he did in the 60's), and Adam West himself, playing a newly created character, the Gray Ghost. It was this gig that started West on his current voice-over career (currently on Family Guy), leading to his recent stint of commercials for Hebrew National hot dogs.

Around the time of the controversial "Knightfall" story arc in the comics, the series was rebooted as The Adventures of Batman & Robin, which stayed on Fox for another couple of seasons before moving to the WB network in 1997 to join Superman. The series would continue for another couple of years under this format before it was finally laid to rest.

Right now, here's the open everyone knows:

Between now & next Friday, I'll see if I can find some Catwoman-centric material to put up, and there's plenty to be had. One of the cool things that came out of this show was the decision to give Joker a girlfriend, in the form of Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin, Days of Our Lives), in answer to the hot & cold relationship between Batman & Catwoman. In one of the most boneheaded moves of all time, Cartoon Network let the series get away, and rights have changed hands twice in the last few years, going first to DisneyXD (when it was still Toon Disney), then to its current home, The Hub, where it airs weekdays. Expect Hub to do a marathon in time for "Dark Knight Rises"' opening next week.

Rating: A++.

Saturtainment: Crazylegs Crane (1978)

After 9 seasons on NBC, the Pink Panther shifted over to ABC, with a new backup feature in Crazylegs Crane, who even got co-star billing in the show's open.

Crazylegs (Larry D. Mann) is forever chasing a dragonfly in much the same way the Coyote would pursue the Road Runner, always failing. Proof of this is in the episode, "Life With Feather". Dangermaus091 uploaded it to YouTube, with a commercial bumper included.

Unfortunately, Crazylegs wasn't the cure for any ratings ills the Panther might've had. This TV has the rights to the reruns, as part of a chronological rotation with later Panther series.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You Know the Voice: Joe Alaskey

This edition of You Know The Voice is a little special because our subject hails from my home district in upstate New York.

Impressionist-voice actor Joe Alaskey is originally from Watervliet, one of those rare, fortunate talents who've made it big in Hollywood coming from New York State's Tri-Cities (Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and its surrounding environs). In front of the cameras, Joe has appeared on Out of This World, Hollywood Squares (during the John Davidson era, when World was on the air at the same time), and the usual talk shows. Here, Joe appears on the cable series, Comedy Tonight, which, if memory serves me, aired on TBS, long before they began billing themselves as a comedy-centric network. Ya know, pilgrims, I'm not exactly sure if Joe & I ever met before he moved West. Oh, to think of what might've been if I'd actually known the guy..........

Uploaded to YouTube by Misteresoteric:

On the Air: SpongeBob Squarepants (1999)

To paraphrase the tag line in the promotion of 1978's "Superman: The Movie", you can believe a sponge can talk, walk, and do just about anything.

SpongeBob Squarepants is Nickelodeon's longest-running in-production Nicktoon. Even though the series has been on the air for 13 years, only 9 seasons have been produced, with season 10 announced----to air in 2015. Does it really take three years to put together a season's worth of episodes? Well, this is a Viacom network program we're talking about here, so you can figure it out.

SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) and his best friend-sidekick Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke, ex-Coach, Gargoyles) live in the fictional undersea city of Bikini Bottom. Patrick's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but then again, neither was Fagerbakke's character of Dauber on Coach, but he is loyal, cheerful, and always positive. He & SpongeBob are employed by the Krusty Krabs restaurant, and, because of the eatery's popular menu, they have to deal with jealous rival Plankton, who's always looking to get the secret recipe. No one's tried to pilfer KFC's formula lately, which would explain Plankton's eternal failure.

Despite the fact that there are just 9 seasons over 13 years, you wouldn't know that by the way Nickelodeon plays the show into the ground, with blocks of episodes virtually on a daily basis. Then again, the MTV Networks family will play anything into the ground, so convinced are they that their viewers are about as smart as Patrick. You'd think they would finally get a clue.

Edit: Episodes previously posted here have been deleted, so we'll play it safe and post the intro everyone knows. Tom Kenny is also the pirate.

SpongeBob is so popular, Nickelodeon decided to make a movie based on the show, mixing in some live action as an excuse to fit in a cameo by 80's TV icon David Hasselhoff, in total Baywatch mode. Rumors have circulated, at least from what I've read, that a 2nd movie was being discussed at the very least.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunday Funnies: The Mouse & The Monster (1996)

Forgotten amongst the debut season of UPN Kids, The Mouse & The Monster is an oddball buddy comedy about a monster who escapes from his creator's lab along with a mouse named Chesbro, who becomes his best friend. I will tell you straight up that I never watched this show, so I can't give it a fair rating. Just judge it for yourself. Here's a sample from the series opener:

Sad to say, the series was cancelled after 1 season, perceived to be the weak link in UPN's action-heavy toon block.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Game Time: Video Village Jr. (1961)

A while back, we discussed Shenanigans, a children's game show for ABC that played out on a giant game board. Well, Shenanigans was simply the reincarnation of an earlier game show.

Video Village and its sister series, Video Village Jr. aired on CBS in the early 60's, and both at one time were hosted by a pre-Let's Make a Deal Monty Hall. As you'll see in the following clip, Hall didn't age much when Deal hit the air a few years later. The other common link between Village & Shenanigans is announcer Kenny Williams, who appears on camera as Kenny the Cop. The difference is that Shenanigans, at least, had a sponsorship deal with Milton Bradley (now part of Hasbro).

Of course, since this was on and off long before I came along, I never saw the show and can't rate it. Gilmorebox uploaded this open, which is missing a few seconds at the start.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Game Time: Choose Up Sides (1956)

When we were kids, we would choose teams for pickup games of softball or kickball, or even a little 3-on-3 hoops action.

Little did my generation know that there was actually a game show under the name, Choose Up Sides, which aired on NBC in 1956. The set was rather simple for the period, and so was the concept. The inestimable Don Pardo, whom I believe is still active today on Saturday Night Live, is the announcer, and a pre-Match Game Gene Rayburn is your genial MC. Gilmorebox uploaded the open, which is all that is available on YouTube at the present time.

Edit: 7/22/17: We've added a complete episode. The intro isn't the same as above, but...!

It's easy to assume Choose Up Sides was a forerunner to later game shows like Double Dare (The Nickelodeon show), although it wasn't quite as messy. Not only that, but it really was a companion of a sort to another G-T game, Beat The Clock, which was running at the time on CBS. No rating, of course.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Spider-Man Week: Spider-Man (1994)

Having already struck ratings gold with Batman: The Animated Series 2 years earlier, Fox brought another comics favorite back to television in 1994 with Spider-Man, 10 years after the cancellation of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends.

Storylines were based largely on classic comic book stories from the past, but before the series ended 5 years later, Marvel's animation division had caught up, and adapted the infamous clone saga for television, as if that was really necessary. In one of the most boneheaded decisions in network history, Fox cancelled the series and rebooted by launching Spider-Man Unlimited, sending the webhead to an alternate universe. That series had a completely different voice cast, which was a huge mistake, as they could've carried over from the previous series.

Speaking of casting, Christopher Daniel Barnes was a supposed hot commodity coming off "The Brady Bunch Movie", and was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. TV legend Edward Asner (ex-The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant) became the latest to resurrect his career as a voice actor landing a gig on Batman, and so Marvel brought him in to lend his voice to J. Jonah Jameson. That was a casting match made in heaven, and really, one of the few the producers got right.

You'll notice the name Stan Berkowitz in opening credits for the episode, "Night of the Lizard". Berkowitz would later move to WB and work on the DC line of cartoons. Faisel666 uploaded part 1 of "Lizard":

Theme music was composed by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, and was some of the best music written for a Marvel cartoon. Ever.

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Mr. Mxyzptlk tries making a movie the hard way (1981)

That 5th dimensional prankster, Mr. Mxyzptlk (Frank Welker) returns to harangue the Super Friends yet again, but this time, Superman is nowhere to be found. Here's "Mxyzptlk's Flick".

Edit, 1/16/19: Dailymotion has deleted the video due to a copyright claim from an international rights holder that isn't Warner Bros.. If/when it returns, we'll bring it back.

Good thing some of today's filmmakers didn't take lessons from Mxyzptlk.

Rating: B.

An idea before its time: Olive Oyl For President (1948)

It seems only appropriate in a Presidential election year to play this Popeye short from 1948. Olive Oyl (Mae Questel) is curious as to why women don't run for President, and Popeye's joking response doesn't provide her with satisfactory answers.

In an era when radio star Gracie Allen posited similar ideas on her show, maybe "Olive Oyl For President" wasn't quite as far-fetched as you might think. You'll be forgiven if you even think this might've been what gave Sarah Palin the idea to even consider a run for the White House before dropping out of the race earlier this year. Uploaded by PeppeRaskell1:

Not among the better of the series, but still serviceable. Rating: B-.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Daytime Heroes: Sub-Mariner (1966)

This is the last part of the Marvel Superheroes Show. We covered the rest back in May when "Marvel's The Avengers" hit theatres. Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, would eventually join the Avengers himself, but not until the late 80's. Currently in the comics, he's aligned with the X-Men, all because he himself is a mutant.

Namor and Captain America had one thing in common. Both were introduced in the Golden Age, and revitalized during the Silver Age. Sadly, the aninated Namor had been hamstrung by some poor adaptations of his adventures, including one that marked the television debut of the X-Men. Surely, Namor deserved better than that.

Anyway, Fabster3333 uploaded the brief, cheesy open.

Rating: C-.

Spider-Man week: Rating the Spider-series (1967-2012)

Ever since his debut 50 years ago, Spider-Man has become to Marvel Comics what Mickey Mouse has been to Marvel's current corporate parent, Disney. That is to say, he is the company's most recognizable star. To that end, Marvel keeps going back to him for all new TV adventures every few years, but the results have been mixed. Let's take a look back at those Spider-series........

Spider-Man (1967-70, ABC): The original, and, to many, still the best incarnation of the webhead. Canada's Grantray-Lawrence Productions, which had the dubious distinction of producing the wretched Marvel Superheroes Show in syndication a year earlier, was entrusted with Spidey, but gave up after a year. Enter Ralph Bakshi, fresh from Terrytoons, to give the show some much needed creative energy.

Spider-Man (1981-2, syndicated): As I outlined the other day, this series didn't quite have the reach it should've. When it came out, in my market, we still had just the three network affiliates, and they weren't running cartoons during the day anymore. No rating.

Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends (1981-4, NBC): One of the cornerstones of an action-packed NBC lineup, Spidey was now joined by newcomer Firestar and founding X-Man Iceman (Frank Welker). Never mind that NBC kept the show around the lunch hour, which usually meant instant cancellation. This series had something that ABC's Super Friends was lacking, and that was depth in characterization. The more you got to know the characters, the more you wanted to see if there would be any relationships developing. As I outlined yesterday, Angelica Jones, aka Firestar, was designed in the image of Mary Jane Watson, whom for some reason Marvel decided not to bring to TV just yet. That would change well after this series ended. There would be guest appearances a-plenty, and Stan Lee jumped in as narrator beginning in season 2.

Spider-Man (1994-9, Fox): The longest running of any of Spidey's TV incarnations, and one of the better written ones, too, freely adapting from the comics of the period. Mary Jane became a player in this show, and most storylines were in serial format. Viewers were introduced to the Punisher, Blade, and others in the course of the 5-year run. Had it not been for a short-sighted decision by the network and/or Marvel, maybe this would still be rolling along. Rating: A. (We will be putting episodes from this series up soon.)

Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2001, Fox): For some odd reason, Spidey's new series was entrusted to Saban, which had taken over distribution of reruns of X-Men, and also famously mishandled The Avengers in the same season. Unlimited got a late start, then was pulled after a month because network suits were panicking over the runaway success of Pokemon, which was the WB's crown jewel at the time. The series ultimately returned to burn off episodes that had already been made and not previously aired, but by then, the ship had sailed.

Spider-Man (2003, MTV): Promised for November 2002, in the wake of Sam Raimi's first "Spider-Man" movie, the series was delayed to the following summer for reasons never revealed, known only to MTV and the show's producers, Sony and Mainframe Entertainment. The video game-style animation was actually more of a hindrance, offsetting a star-studded cast that included Neil Patrick Harris (now on How I Met Your Mother) as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and singer Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane. Acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis made his television debut as a producer and writer on this show.

Spectacular Spider-Man (2008, CW; 2009-10, DisneyXD): The downward spiral of animation continued with this second entry from Sony, which relied on Americanized anime designs, instead of the more traditional linework. This series followed "Spider-Man 3", the final part of the Raimi trilogy. The biggest mistake was throwing Eddie Brock (Venom) in the mix as a high school student/aspiring reporter-photographer and rival of Peter Parker (Josh Keaton). Brock was a product of the 90's, but was included in "Spider-Man 3", and so Sony felt a need to include him in the cartoon. CW carelessly let this get away, letting 4Kids take over programming their Saturday block in the process, and then DisneyXD cavalierly decided to put this show on a weeknight!

Ultimate Spider-Man (2012, DisneyXD): The latest, and lamest, adaptation yet. Do I really need to say anything further? Sure, it has its fans, but so do cockroaches......!

Now, you'll notice I didn't reprint the ratings I put on most of these series. If you click on "From Comics to Toons" in the labels line, it'll take you to a list of the series already covered, where I've covered them in more detail. In this writer's opinion, the quality of the Spider-toons has gone down in recent years, with only a brief uptick in the ill-fated MTV series, which might've been doomed because Mainframe needed extra time for the computer animation.

Ranking them in order:

1. Spider-Man '94
2. Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends
3. Spider-Man '67
4. Spider-Man '03
5. Spider-Man '81 solo series
6. Spider-Man Unlimited
7. Spectacular Spider-Man
8. Ultimate Spider-Man

Discuss and debate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You know the voice: Shape of.......a witch! (1976)

I think you know what the title of this post means, pilgrims.

Before she auditioned to be the voice of a certain shape-shifting Super Friend, Louise "Liberty" Williams almost scored her first leading role in a sitcom.

Tabatha (note the spelling) was meant to be a belated spin-off from Bewitched, which ended its run just four years earlier. Since Bewitched ended, producer William Asher had tried a couple of other projects, including a solo series for Paul Lynde, who won acclaim as Uncle Arthur, but when that failed, Lynde was moved over to Temperatures Rising to replace James Whitmore. Now, it was time to focus on Samantha & Darrin's oldest child, Tabitha (the spelling change might've been an error), now all grown up and working as a secretary (read: editorial assistant) for a magazine. Sadly, the pilot failed to sell, and Asher went back to the drawing board, with Lisa Hartman in the lead role for a second pilot, which finally worked.

Rating: B.

Spider-Man week: The origin of Spider-Man (1982)

Renowned TV & comics writer and part-time independent filmmaker Don Glut, who spent some time in the 70's writing for Marvel, penned "Along Came Spidey", which to some observers is considered a definitive take on the web-spinner's origin. This comes from season 2 of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, but strangely, narrator Stan Lee is not heard, at least at the beginning, though they cleverly advertised a feature piece Lee was supposedly writing for the fictional Daily Bugle.

As some of you might be aware, Angelica Jones, aka Firestar, was created for the show, and was integrated into the Marvel Universe proper a couple of years later. If the resemblance to Peter Parker's long-time squeeze, Mary Jane Watson, creates any confusion, well, the original plan, from what I understand, was for MJ to be part of the show in the first place!

Rating: A-.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: The Fear (1985)

For the first time, the Batman's origin was told on television in detail, in the Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode, "The Fear". As we showcased Bizarro yesterday, this was the only time the Scarecrow appeared by himself in a Super Friends/Super Powers Team cartoon, and, as was the case with Bizarro, there is no reference to his past with the Legion of Doom.

Edit, 1/16/19: Dailymotion has deleted the video due to a copyright claim from an international rights holder that isn't Warner Bros.. If/when it returns, we'll bring it back.

"The Fear" is considered by many the best episode of the series, and, also Adam West's finest hour as the Batman. I'd love to see Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) give West something just as meaty to do as the mayor of Quahog, but then, drama isn't MacFarlane's forte.......!

Rating: A++. (Like there was any doubt.)