Thursday, January 31, 2013

Animated World of DC Comics: Hawkman makes A Visit To Venus (1967)

It's been a while since Hawkman was showcased here, so we'll fill the void with "A Visit To Venus". It wouldn't surprise me one iota if writer George Kashdan had borrowed a plot device from a sci-fi movie or two......

It's a pity Hawkgirl, Hawkman's wife, wasn't included in these cartoons.

Rating: B.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Galtar & the Golden Lance (1985)

Galtar & The Golden Lance was part of the first season of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera anthology block in 1985, but, regrettably, was cancelled after 1 season, due mostly, methinks, to a backlash over everyone and their brother trying to copy the success formula of Filmation's He-Man, which was in its 3rd & final season. The cancellation prevented a proper closure to the storyline involving Galtar, Princess Goleeta and her brother, Zorn, and the evil Tormack, who had in his possession a sword that belonged to Goleeta's family, which, coupled with Galtar's lance, would make its owner invincible in combat.

JediJuggernaut uploaded the open & close:

Personally, I felt this was also a bit of a knockoff of Ruby-Spears' Thundarr the Barbarian, except Goleeta wasn't a sorceress, and Zorn had mental powers.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Videoman (1983)

In season 1 of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, we were introduced to a video game whiz named Francis Byte. Through an accident of fate caused by the Gamesman, Francis ultimately becomes Videoman. In season 3, Videoman returns, and now, he wants to be a hero. By the end of the episode, "The Education of a Superhero", Francis is directed by the Spider-Friends to a certain school in Westchester County..........

Regrettably, unlike Firestar, Videoman didn't make a transition into the printed page. Firestar starred in her own Marvel comics miniseries, which hit stores after Amazing Friends ended production, but Videoman, despite making another appearance or two, is lost to the mists of time.

Rating: C.

Sunday Funnies: The PJ's (1999)

Claymation animator Will Vinton is, of course, best known for the California Raisins commercials and Saturday morning cartoons in the 80's. In 1999, Vinton joined forces with another 80's icon, actor-comedian-singer Eddie Murphy and actor-turned-filmmaker Ron Howard to produce a primetime claymation series which borrowed from a number of other sources, and, in turn, may have accidentally inspired an unrelated feature film based on a TV classic.

The PJ's was a mid-season replacement series when it bowed on Fox in January 1999, with the debut airing on a Sunday night, followed by a weekly run on Tuesdays, coupled with the far more successful King of the Hill. Murphy (ex-Saturday Night Live) served as co-executive producer (with Howard, Vinton, and others), co-created the series, and starred as the voice of Thurgood Stubbs, building superintendent, who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it came to carrying out his duties.

Set in an inner-city housing project, The PJ's took inspiration from shows like The Honeymooners, The Jeffersons, and from Murphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" skits from his SNL run in the early 80's, among others. In truth, while Stubbs wasn't quite as bright as, say Ralph Kramden or George Jefferson, he was a natural leader, like the iconic sitcom characters of past generations. After 2 seasons on Fox, the series shifted to WB for its 3rd & final season, and as a result, swapped studio support, as Warner Bros. replaced Touchstone Television (Disney) as a packager, in conjunction with Vinton & Murphy's respective production companies and Howard's Imagine Entertainment, better known for its big screen successes, such as the Oscar-winning "A Beauthiful Mind" & "Apollo 13".

The PJ's merits mention because today, MTV2, sharing cable rights with TV One, and presumably also its own step-sister networks BET & Centric, aired a 3-hour marathon of the series. Here's the open:

Methinks this might've been a sort-of inspiration for the feature film version of Honeymooners having an African American central cast a few years back, headlined by Cedric the Entertainer. Of course, the movie bombed. At least we're thankful Thurgood, a modern day Fred G. Sanford, is back among us.

Rating: B.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Proof that the Ghostbusters can deal with mortal threats, too.......(1986)

From the 1986 animated Ghostbusters series comes this PSA in which one of the team's juvenile helpers is confronted by a drug dealer who looks like a reject from another cartoon.........

Enough said.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: GI Joe Sigma 6 (2005)

Hasbro decided to bring GI Joe into the 21st century, trailing behind their other major franchise, the Transformers. Thus, the first----and so far, only----Saturday morning GI Joe series, subtitled Sigma 6, debuted on Fox in 2005. Nice idea, but apparently, a lot of older fans of the long running franchise didn't like that this series appeared to have been produced in Japan, as has been the case with recent Transformers incarnations, starting with 2001's Robots In Disguise, which also aired on Fox. And like Robots In Disguise, Sigma 6 was cancelled early, before the series was completed. Currently, it airs on The Hub, which is choosing to run it weekdays, rather than as a weekly entity, despite the fact that there aren't enough episodes to justify a 5-day-a-week schedule, the same mistake made over and over again by cable programmers unable to properly align their lineups.

Russ Velazquez uploaded the open:

Count me among those who wasn't digging the anime look to this show. Consequently, the franchise has bounced around since the end of Sigma 6. In 2009, a miniseries, Resolute, written by British comics writer Warren Ellis, aired on [adult swim], and also was done in an anime style. Until today, I didn't even know about that project. After The Hub launched in 2010, Hasbro's newly launched cartoon studio brought out the most recent series, Renegades, which owes its existence more to the feature film version of another 80's icon, The A-Team, than continuing the GI Joe legacy. I'm reading on a message board elsewhere that Hasbro isn't exactly keen right now on another GI Joe series, perhaps waiting to see how the forthcoming feature film, "GI Joe: Retaliation", does at the box office first. I'll have something to say about Renegades another time.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Game Time Extra: Meet William Hanna (To Tell The Truth, 1975)

It isn't that often we get to meet the creative forces behind our favorite cartoon characters. In 1975, with Hanna-Barbera at the height of its popularity on Saturday mornings, William Hanna was invited to appear on the now-syndicated To Tell The Truth, which, as you'll see, was hosted during this period by Garry Moore, who took over after Bud Collyer passed away 6 years earlier. A couple of years later, Moore himself was forced to step down due to illness, passing the baton to baseball player-turned-broadcaster Joe Garagiola, but that's another story.

Hanna is easily recognizable if you've seen pictures of him, or have seen the specials produced in later years celebrating H-B. Yogi Bear (Daws Butler) serves as guest announcer, and Daws is heard briefly speaking in his own voice before morphing back to Yogi. Uploaded by Garry Moore Fan to YouTube:

I'm reserving a rating on Truth for when I do a full review in The Land Of Whatever down the road.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: One Less Bell To Answer (1972)

The Fifth Dimension's "One Less Bell To Answer" was actually released in 1970 on Bell Records (home to Tony Orlando & Dawn, the Partridge Family, & Edison Lighthouse), but that didn't stop Don Cornelius from booking them to appear on Soul Train during its first season.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: In The Rest of My Life (1972)

From The Osmonds comes "In The Rest of My Life", as uploaded by girlofOs. I don't know the title of the episode it comes from, but you can tell the plot. Jimmy has swapped places with a UK lookalike. Whether this was a "Prince & The Pauper" type deal or a kidnapping, I don't know.

As was the case with the previous year's Jackson 5ive, the British animation team of Halas & Bachelor handled the character designs, since the dance moves are strikingly similar to those of the Jacksons.......

Edit, 9/2/17: Unfortunately, girlofOs' YouTube account appears to have been terminated, as the video was deleted. The episode, "Jimmy & James in London", from whence we get "In The Rest of My Life", isn't available online, but when it does become available, or there's another clip of the song, we'll have it up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Earth Corps (Inhumanoids, 1986)

It's safe to say that the success of GI Joe & Transformers gave Hasbro, Sunbow, & Marvel Productions a false sense of security in thinking that anything that could be adapted for television would succeed. Unfortunately, that was proven incorrect, as the new ideas that Hasbro put forth were met with indifference from consumers/viewers, who voted with their wallets on the toys, and their remotes on the cartoons.

Inhumanoids was one such concept that died a quick death. Introduced as a series of short, serialized chapters on a half-hour anthology series, Super Sunday (or Super Saturday, depending on where you lived), then graduated to its own stand-alone half-hour series (the only other entry from the anthology to be treated thus was Jem, which we previously covered) in 1986. The series told the story of the efforts of Earth Corps, a team of research scientists who tracked and tried to capture the titular monsters. Marvel published a comic book version of the series, but that got a quick hook after just 4 issues under the Star Comics imprint without proper resolution.

I never watched the show, so I can't rate, but after reading about its poor performance on the air, I must assume that the kids who were targeted either didn't want to learn anything about real science, and the monsters were too gruesome to their liking.

Here's the intro:

Would Hasbro try again today, since they have their own network as an outlet? As I wrote regarding Visionaries the other day, it would not be a high priority right now.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tooniversary: Robocop (1988)

A year after the first film of the same name, Robocop was rebooted as a Saturday morning syndicated series, produced by Marvel Productions. That, for fans, was the good news. The bad news was that not enough people watched the show, which was cancelled with only 12 episodes made. Just the same, the cyborg lawman would return in another series a few years later.

Superherocartoonsite uploaded the open:

Liberties were taken with the series, most promiently the use of gang leader Clarence Boddicker, who was killed off in the movie, but brought back for the cartoon, perhaps to give viewers a link between the movie and the series.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Game Time: Singled Out (1995)

In the 60's, Chuck Barris created The Dating Game, which the now-deranged game show icon now claims was used as part of some heretofore undisclosed super secret missions for the CIA, as depicted in his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Somehow, I can't buy into that, even if it really happened, because if it did, would some of the contestants have had similarly weird stories coming out of the series' spiritual offspring?

MTV expanded on Dating's basic concept----oh, did they ever!----with the introduction of Singled Out in 1995. Instead of just three bachelors/bachelorettes, contestants had to wade through a pool of 50, and they still managed to get through 2 games per half hour show. Comedian Chris Hardwick served as MC, with Jenny McCarthy as his sidekick for the first couple of seasons. After two years, McCarthy was spun off into her own self-titled series, and actress-singer Carmen Electra was tapped to take her place. Unfortunately, that falls into Jump The Shark territory, since Singled was cancelled after a year and a half of the Carmen era.

Today, ABC's Bachelor & Bachelorette "reality" shows borrow and compress the Singled concept, as contestants go through 13 weeks to wade through a field of the same number, albeit in a 1 hour show. I wonder what Barris thinks about that.

Following is a clip with future author Leonard Clifton.

I think guys tuned in hoping for a nip slip from Jenny, more than anything else. I wasn't quite that amused to start with, and, to be honest, this is a show MTV should bring back, even though Hardwick is one of the busiest guys out there these days.

Rating: C.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

On DVD: Uncle Sam Magoo (1970)

The nearsighted Mr. Magoo returned with a 1-shot special that serves as an appropriate follow-up to his 1964 series, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, which we've previously covered.

Uncle Sam Magoo was the last production to roll out from UPA Pictures in 1970, and, as such, the creative personnel took an opportunity to poke fun at the company, as you'll see in the following clip. For example, Magoo (Jim Backus, ex-Gilligan's Island) mistakes a coat rack for his agent, Henry, in reference to executive producer Henry Saperstein. While the UPA logo would never be seen again, Magoo, of course, would remain, serving as a pitchman for General Electric before landing his last series, What's New, Mr. Magoo?, in 1977, and, yeah, we've covered that, too.

Magoo takes us on a whirlwind tour through history, from the pre-Colonial days to the then-present. The supporting cast includes Len Weinrib (who was working on Dr. Doolittle at the time as a writer-producer and actor), Barney Phillips (ex-Shazzan), and relative newcomer Bob Holt, who, like Weinrib, was mostly working for DePatie-Freleng during his career.

Here's a preview, courtesy of Shout! Factory's YouTube channel:

It stuns me that this hasn't been used on a Saturday morning, and should.

Rating: B.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Saturtainment: The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa (1995)

Spinning off from the smash hit movie, "The Lion King", which came out a year earlier, two supporting characters from the film were given their own Saturday morning series in 1995.

The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa lasted just one season on CBS, as it was the last series Disney sold to the network before it began programming ABC's Saturday lineup after purchasing said network. Ernie Sabella (ex-Perfect Strangers) & Nathan Lane reprised their roles from the movie, especially to perform "Hakuna Matata", which became the show's theme song. However, Lane bowed out shortly thereafter due to, presumably other commitments, and was replaced by other actors as Timon. In fact, that left Sabella as the only cast member from the movie still working on the show, as all the other characters that carried over were recast.

Timon & Pumbaa had the dubious task of leading off CBS' lineup. Not a very good option, considering how many series have died in the 8:00 (ET) berth over the years. Only one season's worth of episodes were made, and the series moved to Disney Channel after leaving CBS. The series resurfaced on Disney Junior last year after a lengthy absence.

Now, here's "Hakuna Matata", the television version:

Rating: None. Didn't watch the show.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (1987)

Sunbow Entertainment, before linking up with Marvel Comics' TV arm to produce adaptations of Hasbro's GI Joe, Transformers, & My Little Pony toy lines, had produced on their own the daily comedy-variety series, The Great Space Coaster, and thus proved they could hold their own in the syndicated market.

Unfortunately, their last series collaboration with the toy giant was a flop of epic proportions.

Hasbro introduced Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, in 1987. While Marvel Productions didn't co-produce the TV show (TMS Entertainment, a Japanese based studio, did), Marvel's Star Comics division produced a short-lived series based on the show. The toy line failed to achieve expectations. The book was cancelled after 6 issues, and the TV show merited just one season of 13 episodes, airing in syndication. In my market, Visionaries aired ahead of network programming, around 7:30 (ET). I don't think it was so much the early air time that hurt the show, but rather, the concept. Knights shapeshifting into holographic animal avatars? How can kids play with toys like that? The simple answer is, they couldn't.

As we all know, ever since Hasbro bought a large stake in Discovery Kids, turning that channel into The Hub, they've revived My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, and, more recently, a 90's toy line, The Littlest Pet Shop. Given how badly the Visionaries were received 26 years ago, I think an attempt to revive this line is way down at the bottom of the priority scale.

JediJuggernaut uploaded the opening & closing sequences. The sharp eyed among you will note that current WB executive Sander Schwartz was a production exec on this show.


No rating. Didn't see the show.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Cool McCool's 1st cases, 9/10/66

We've previously discussed Bob Kane's last creation, Cool McCool, which spent three seasons on NBC from 1966-9. However, some full episodes have found their way to YouTube in recent days, and I just happened to find the first episode, which is appropriate, since now we can discuss Cool's dad, Harry, and uncles, Tom & Dick, who occupied the backup feature.

The McCool brothers were modeled after the Keystone Kops, and thus billed as the Komedy Kops. Tom is the smallest of the three and speaks incoherently, needing Harry to translate for him. This was borrowed from the Go Go Gophers, since one had to translate for the other.

Bob McFadden & Chuck McCann did the majority of the voices, with McFadden (previously heard on Milton The Monster) as Cool & Harry. McFadden did a Jack Benny impersonation when voicing Cool, and it seems in "Phantom of the Opera House" that McCann is mimicking Arthur Q. Bryan in voicing the theatre manager.

As for Cool himself, the Benny mimic aside, Kane and co-creator/executive producer Al Brodax envisioned him as a parody of a parody, since there was already a spy spoof on NBC's roster, that being Get Smart, which was in its 2nd season. McFadden, then, opted for doing a Benny mimic rather than Don Adams so it wouldn't be so obvious.

In this first episode, originally broadcast on September 10, 1966, Cool battles Hurricane Harry & The Owl in his two shorts. Regrettably, only 20 episodes were produced and cycled ad infinitum over the three years.

King Features' other network series at the time, The Beatles, was also in its 2nd season, over on ABC, and is the better remembered of the studio's network output. Now, let's watch Cool McCool.

Rating: C. (Harry drags his son's rating down.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Daytime Heroes: The Comic Strip (1987)

Thundercats was entering its 3rd & final season in 1987. Silverhawks had bombed, cancelled after one year. The same fate would befall its replacement, an anthology series that would be the last produced by Rankin-Bass.

The Comic Strip consisted of four rotating features, kind of like the old primetime anthologies that NBC ran in the 60's & 70's. TigerSharks appeared to be a more natural successor to Silverhawks as a straight adventure series. Karate Kat & Street Frogs were played for laughs, although the latter also had musical numbers included. Mini-Monsters was set at a summer camp meant for the offspring of Dracula, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, et al, but with two human campers joining the fun. As memory serves, stations had the option of airing the show as a 2-hour weekly block, rather than on weekdays, or to supplement the weekday broadcasts, so that viewers could catch up on what they might've missed. The 2-hour block aired on Sundays in New York on WWOR, as I recall.

Here's the intro:

Down the line, we will review each of the individual segments.

Rating: B.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why did Rankin-Bass fail on Saturday mornings?

Better known for their collection of Christmas (and other holiday) specials, Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass moved into the Saturday morning arena in 1966, but their body of weekend programming lasted less than a decade, with all but one of their series going to ABC. We will not include the studio's contributions to the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.

*King Kong (1966): The original 8th Wonder of the World, as he was billed in the original feature film, was turned into a superhero in this series, a pattern that Hanna-Barbera would copy twice with other movie monsters (Moby Dick in 1967 and Godzilla in 1978). Tom of T.H.U.M.B. was the backup feature, and was perhaps the inspiration, in part, for H-B's 1973 series, Inch High, Private Eye, though some historians conceivably could've had the two mixed up a tad.

*Tomfoolery (NBC, 1970): A collection of short skits and gags, based on the works of Ogden Nash and others, failed to find an audience, largely because the humor was right over the heads of the viewers.

*The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad (1970): Kenneth Graeme's tales had been told in animated form before, most notably by Disney some years prior. While Tomfoolery was given the lunch hour death slot, as I remember, Dragon led off ABC's lineup.

*The Jackson 5ive (1971): Michael and his brothers, voiced by other actors, made their entree into animation, with England's H-B (Halas & Bachelor) providing the animation. The series has been in syndication, and made the rounds of cable. Viacom has bounced it between VH1, Nickelodeon, & BET over the years, and a DVD release seems to be nigh.

*The Osmonds (1972): Coupled with the Jacksons to form a hour long (or better, if the Brady Kids had been in the vicinity of the time slot) block of pop music. Unfortunately, it lasted one season.

*Kid Power (1972): Morrie Turner's classic newspaper strip, Wee Pals, was adapted for television, but has become long forgotten, even though it covered some of the same ground as Bill Cosby's award-winning Fat Albert, over on CBS, which debuted the same year and lasted a total of 13 years between CBS & syndication! Go figure!

Other series were produced for syndicated markets, including The Wizard of Oz & The New Adventures of Pinocchio in 1961, and the series we all remember from the 80's---Thundercats, Silverhawks, & The Comic Strip, produced between 1985-8. In all R-B produced just six series for the networks, none of which produced more than one season's worth of episodes. And you wonder why R-B is only known for their primetime holiday treats?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

You Know the Voice: Jack Sheldon

To two generations of kids, he was the voice behind Schoolhouse Rock classics, "Conjunction Junction" & "I'm Just a Bill". However, Jack Sheldon was pretty well known to parents around that time, too.

Over at The Land of Whatever, I took a look at Sheldon's short-lived 1966 sitcom, Run, Buddy, Run, about an ordinary guy on the run from the Mob in a sort-of left-handed homage to The Fugitive. Sheldon otherwise was already well into his other vocation as a jazz musician, and also appeared frequently on The Merv Griffin Show & Dragnet, among other things.

A few years back, Sheldon was the subject of a documentary, "Trying to Get Good", from which we get an excerpt that includes Sheldon performing "How Do You Start?".

What I wanted to do was pull a clip from an episode of Mike Hammer, Private Eye that Sheldon appeared on, but it isn't on YouTube. Oh, well, this is better than nothing at all, effendis. Take a look at the video, and try to picture that sentient piece of rolled up paper on the steps of Capitol Hill............

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Saturtainment: Matinee at the Bijou (1980)

When you think of PBS, what comes to mind? Sesame Street, Nova, Masterpiece Theatre, Electric Company, and so on. In 1980, the network decided to do something about that.

Matinee at the Bijou was an anthology series that sought to recapture the spirit of Saturday afternoons (or mornings) spent at the movie theatre back in the day. In a compact 90 minute package, Matinee mixed together long forgotten cartoons, short subjects, serials, and features, all of them in the public domain. Actor-singer Rudy Vallee performed the show's title song, but, sad to say, that isn't available on YouTube right now.

Plans were afoot as much as 2 years ago to revive the series, with Debbie Reynolds as series host, but as of this writing, it appears the revival is in turnaround, which is a shame, because in its heyday (1980-5), Matinee was a terrific alternative to sports programming and other syndicated fare.

Charlie McHenry offers up a piece of Matinee's past, with Spike Jones and his group performing "Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy", from 1942. I think there will be a plug at the end of the video for the above mentioned revival........

Rating: A-.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Game Time: Bay State Bowling

There was a time in the 80's when my local cable system carried a second channel from Massachusetts. WSMW, channel 27, was home to reruns of Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, among others, but also introduced me to a different kind of bowling.

Most of us have played the traditional game, 10 pins, a large ball, weighing no more than 16 pounds on the average. In some states, such as Massachusetts, there is a different version, such as candlepin, which uses a smaller ball, and, yes, the pins are shaped like candles, hence the name. The other difference is it requires 3 shots instead of 2 to knock all ten pins down in a frame, which means it'd be rare for someone to strike out in the 10th frame.

A smaller ball can be rolled down the line harder and faster, as you'll see in the following sample clip:

Haven't seen any of this since WSMW was removed from cable systems in the mid-80's, but I will tell you, if someone was enterprising enough to try to bring candlepin bowling to my area, I would take a shot at it. (Yeah, the pun is that obvious)

Rating: A.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Looney TV: Elmer Fudd, Business Analyst? (1956)

Who'dathunk this was possible?

In "Yankee Dood It", a 1956 Merrie Melodies piece loosely based on The Elves & The Shoemaker, Elmer Fudd is the King of a group of industrial elves. I wish I could post the complete short here, but the only available version was recorded via either a video camera or camera phone while the film aired on TV. However, let us present something rare. Elmer offering business advice.

Uploaded by Evan Knight.

Rating: A.

DePatie-Freleng: A Chronology (1966-80)

A few months back, I did a pair of essays recalling Filmation's difficulties in scoring hit series on NBC & ABC, as opposed to CBS, which was their "home network". A similar principle might apply to another secondary player in the cartoon sweepstakes of our youth, DePatie-Freleng.

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, or, DFE, first entered the Saturday morning wars the same time Filmation did, in 1966. NBC was their "home network" for most of its 14 seasons, but, with the exception of a certain franchise feline, DFE couldn't find any footing on any of the three networks. Let's take a look, and bear in mind that virtually all of DFE's programs have previously been reviewed here in the Archives.

*The Super Six (NBC, 1966): With the camp superhero phenomenon in full bloom, the Six were one of two comedy crimefighting teams on the schedule (Terrytoons' Mighty Heroes were on CBS), but, as was the practice of the time, only one season's worth of episodes were produced. The only thing the show had going for it, though, was a kickin' theme song by Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

*Super President (NBC, 1967): Even cartoon historian Jerry Beck regards this as one of the worst ideas in human history. A sitting President moonlighting as a superhero? Ridiculous. Paul Frees was not only the voice of the title hero, but also the announcer-narrator. The backup segment, Spy Shadow, featured Ted Cassidy (ex-The Addams Family), who was also involved in the Galaxy Trio portion of Birdman, also on NBC. Well, it was a step up from Frankenstein, Jr......

*Here Comes the Grump (NBC, 1969): A young boy (Jay North, ex-Dennis the Menace) is transported to another dimension, where he has to help a princess rescue her kingdom from the title villain (Rip Taylor). Of course, the Grump is a bumbler in the tradition of Yosemite Sam, but hiring Mel Blanc would've made it too obvious.......

*The Pink Panther (various titles, NBC, 1969-78, ABC, 1978-80): Theatrical shorts, likely edited by network censors, coupled with various backup features, including The Inspector, Misterjaw, & the Texas (nee Tiujana) Toads, who were all left behind when the Panther jumped to ABC and was introduced to Crazylegs Crane. They'd have been better off if the popular Ant & the Aardvark had jumped along with the Panther, to tell you the truth. NBC maxed out at 90 minutes, trying to program opposite The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show on CBS, and that, I think, led to the network switch.

*Doctor Doolittle (NBC, 1970): Trying to pick up where Rex Harrison left off in a feature film was hard enough, but they tried. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after 1 season. Actor Len Weinrib also served as a writer and producer.

*The Barkleys (NBC, 1972): Canine satire of CBS' All In The Family, though Arnie Barkley was, like Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners and Dom DeLuise's character on Lotsa Luck, a bus driver. Should've lasted longer, but viewers weren't buying.

*The Houndcats (NBC, 1972): Along with The Barkleys, the first project from Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, coming over from Hanna-Barbera. Funny animal send-up of another CBS franchise, Mission: Impossible, though Stutz, the team leader (Michael Bell), was more like Maxwell Smart than Jim Phelps.

*Bailey's Comets (CBS, 1973): The first series that didn't go to NBC, but wasn't seen all that much, if at all, in my area due to affiliate preference for syndicated fare. Ahead of its time, the Comets were a traveling roller derby style team that competed around the world.

*Return to the Planet of the Apes (NBC, 1975): Oh, you'd think this would've been a hit. The Apes franchise took a hit when a primetime, live-action series for CBS tanked a year earlier, despite having movie regular Roddy McDowell in the cast. Ruby & Spears, who'd worked on the live-action series a year earlier for 20th Century Fox & CBS, were not involved in this show, but Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey did the character designs and served as a producer.

*The Oddball Couple (ABC, 1975): First series sold to ABC, after having introduced Timer to audiences in a pair of Afterschool Specials. Parody of The Odd Couple, which had just ended its run.

*What's New, Mr. Magoo? (CBS, 1977): DFE obtained a license to bring back the nearsighted Magoo (Jim Backus) back to television. Unfortunately, the landscape was such that Magoo couldn't find an audience. Curious casting in that cartoon icon Casey Kasem was cast as Magoo's nephew, Waldo.

*Baggy Pants & The Nitwits (NBC, 1977): Buried in the lunch hour wasteland. The Nitwits were a spinoff from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, only Tyrone (Arte Johnson) & Gladys (Ruth Buzzi) were now superheroes of a sort. Buzzi had kept Gladys in play with frequent appearances on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. Meanwhile, Baggy Pants was a feline tribute to Charlie Chaplin. It's too bad there are no episodes available on YouTube to review. In hindsight, this series should've had a cushier, earlier timeslot, like, as a lead-in to the 90 minute Pink Panther package.

*The New Fantastic Four (NBC, 1978): DFE obtained the license to do a fresh adaptation of Marvel's "First Family", but with a twist. Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, was left out due to licensing conflicts, rather than urban legends, and replaced with H.E.R.B.I.E. (Frank Welker), who would later appear in the comics. This was so bad, the hometown NBC affiliate refused to carry the show, and at the time, cable systems in upstate NY were able to carry a second affiliate, this one from Utica. Mike Road (ex-Jonny Quest, Herculoids) & Ginny Tyler (ex-Space Ghost) voiced Reed & Sue Richards, respectively, while Ted Cassidy returned to the DFE fold to voice Ben "The Thing" Grimm. Cassidy also worked on H-B's Godzilla Power Hour that same season, also on NBC.

*Spider-Woman (ABC, 1979): The final DFE offering was a return to superhero adventure, and a transition, as Marvel bought the studio and it would return as Marvel Productions just 2 years later. Joan Van Ark (Knots Landing) voiced the title heroine, whose supporting cast was made for TV and didn't come from the comics. Fatal mistake, that.

Ok, so DFE sold 2 series apiece to CBS & ABC, and all four bombed, though two of them should've been retained an extra year. In defense of Spider-Woman, the programming genius at ABC who slotted her in the vicinity of Scooby & Scrappy-Doo made a fatal error. Putting the show in between Super Friends & Plastic Man would've made more sense.

Aside from their Saturday endeavors, DFE held the license for the Dr. Seuss specials, which carried over to Marvel as part of the transition, and there were a few Christmas toons mixed in as well. At least their body of Saturday morning work was greater than that of holiday specialists Rankin-Bass, whom we'll look at another time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tooniversaries in 2013

With the turn of a new year, we have a fresh list of series that are marking anniversaries in 2013. Here goes:

50 years: Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales, The New Casper Cartoon Show

45 years: Wacky Races, Banana Splits, The Archie Show, The Batman-Superman Hour

40 years: Star Trek, Super Friends, Jeannie, Speed Buggy, Goober & The Ghost Chasers, Yogi's Gang, Butch Cassidy, Inch High, Private Eye

35 years: Fangface. The New Fantastic Four, Godzilla Power Hour, Superstretch & Micro Woman, Web Woman, Manta & Moray, Freedom Force

30 years: He-Man & The Masters of the Universe, The Littles, Inspector Gadget, Mr. T, Alvin & The Chipmunks

25 years: Superman (Ruby-Spears series for CBS)

20 years: Sonic the Hedgehog, Animaniacs, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, 2 Stupid Dogs

10 years: The Batman, Teen Titans, Stripperella, Gary The Rat (neither series were meant for daytime airing, but mark 10 years anyway)

There are others a'plenty that I know I've missed, but we'll fill in the blanks eventually.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Game Time: Family Game Night (2010)

The folks at Hasbro have been making games and toys for years. In the last 30 years, they've also absorbed some of their former competitors, such as Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Kenner, and Tonka. While today's generation of youngsters are, by & large, more interested in video and computer games (and Hasbro does those, too), the company hasn't forgotten that there was a time when families actually played games together.

To that point, Hasbro, after launching The Hub in October 2010, decided to take viewers back to those halcyon days with Family Game Night, a 1 hour series airing on weekends (including Saturday afternoons, hence its inclusion here), in which families compete against each other, playing some of the games they grew up with, such as Sorry, Connect Four, and Yahtzee (which Milton Bradley had acquired from another company before being bought out by Hasbro), plus newer games getting exposure and publicity from being used on the show. The series, hosted by cable game vet Todd Newton, is in its 3rd season, but isn't getting the attention it so richly deserves.

Following is a sample compilation clip, from Season 1:

The giant board games on the stage will recall shows from the past like Shenanigans, which we've previously reviewed here, and, of course, it's more fun and safer than the current incarnation of Family Feud, which is getting more risque with the questions under 3rd year host Steve Harvey. Nickelodeon fans will recall Double Dare, when it went to a Family format, but without the mess.

Rating: A.