Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Looney TV: Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies (1972)

From the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie comes a once-in-a-lifetime team-up.

"Daffy Duck & Porky Pig Meet The Groovie Goolies" has been held as a low point in the histories of both the Goolies, whose series had been cancelled by CBS, and the Looney Tunes crew. I honestly can't see why, and this was the first time I've actually been able to see this film. When it first aired in 1972, I was in a junior bowling league, and missed the show. The "Mad Mirror Land" portion of the movie has been used in the Groovie Goolies rerun package in syndication, and that was the only part of the movie I think was used after 1972.

Filmation actress Joanne Louise was actually a pseudonym for the studio's lone voice actress, Jane Webb, who pulled double duty in this one as she not only reprised as Hagatha, but also Petunia Pig. Of course you know, poor Petunia hasn't gotten much screen time in the 41 years since, as The Looney Tunes Show is ending its run on Cartoon Network without Petunia appearing on the show.

Basically, the plot centers around a movie-within-a-movie, and, as you'll see shortly, Frankie (Howard Morris) is a huge Daffy Duck fan (Like, who knew?). Morris utilizes his Mayor McCheese (McDonald's commercials) voice for the Mummy, and, upon closer inspection, Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop) did some recycling of his own. His voice for Dracula was previously utilized for Phineas J. Whoopee (Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales) nearly a decade earlier! I digress. The use of an animated analogue for Lon Chaney, Sr. would be used again a year later, this time on The New Scooby-Doo Movies (Don Adams as "The Exterminator", previously reviewed).

Edit, 2/11/19: Changed the video. This version is compiled from color AND black & white prints.

With the Goolies now the property of Dreamworks Classic, formerly Classic Media, I doubt very seriously they'll see Daffy and the gang again. For what it's worth, the next year, ABC brought back Bugs Bunny for a 2 year run, so something good came out of this.

Rating: B-.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Love Song of the Universe (1972)

"Love Song of the Universe" was likely the last chance for a single to crack the top 40 for Josie & The Pussycats. It was included in at least a couple of episodes of the 1972 Josie & The Pussycats in Outer Space series. As you'll see, the quality of animation took a turn downward, as this was partially (if not entirely) produced in Australia.

Uploaded by OfframptoNowhere:

Tooniversary: Scooby-Doo meets Dick Van Dyke (1973)

In the series finale of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Mystery Inc. finds Dick Van Dyke running a carnival, and, of course, he needs their help. Van Dyke had returned to CBS some time prior with The New Dick Van Dyke Show, which didn't have the staying power of the original (1960-6), nor was it in the same setting (since Mary Tyler Moore was doing her own Emmy winning series at this point). Van Dyke would return to Hanna-Barbera 20 years later to narrate the Christmas special, The Town That Santa Forgot, but this would be the only time he'd share the stage, if you will, with Scooby.

Of course, the gang had some previous experience with evil at the circus after a fashion, but this was treated like it was a new experience for them. Ah, the lack of continuity was a bugger back then.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Daytime Heroes: The Bionic Six (1987)

Contrary to what some unenlightened souls might think, The Bionic Six wasn't inspired by the 70's adventures of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, even though MCA, then the parent company of Universal, handled distribution for this weekday cartoon, which lasted one season in 1987.

Instead, the Six are a group of ordinary folks given bionic powers to combat the predictable mad scientist, in this case, Scarab, whose brother is the Six's benefactor. There is a connection, however, to the bionic franchise. Alan Oppenheimer, better known for his voice work than his years as a character actor, was the original actor cast as Dr. Rudy Wells before being replaced by Martin E. Brooks. Jennifer Darling, who voiced one of the villains, played the secretary of Oscar Goldman.

Bionicsix1987 (Duh!) uploaded the series opener, "Valley of Shadows":

Could you picture the Fantastic Four rebooted with bionic powers? The Japanese creator of this series certainly had to have that in mind, I think, but US audiences weren't digging.

Rating: B-.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrity Toons: Scooby-Doo meets Davy Jones (1972)

When Monkees vocalist Davy Jones passed away, we ran a clip of his song, "I Can Make You Happy". Now, we can give you the episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies from whence it came.

In "The Haunted Horseman of Hagglethorn Hall", Davy supposedly is inheriting the titular property from a heretofore unmentioned relative. The predictable chaos follows. The irony in all of this is, another Monkee, Micky Dolenz, was under contract to Hanna-Barbera at the time, having signed a year earlier to work on Funky Phantom, and would land three more series gigs before the end of the 70's, all of which have previously been covered (Devlin, Butch Cassidy, & Wonder Wheels). It's just too bad that there was so much discord within the band, else Micky and either Peter Tork or Mike Nesmith, the latter of whom was shifting his focus to folk and country by this point, could've been added to the mix.

Edit, 1/29/21: The video has been deleted by Dailymotion due to a copyright claim from WB. In its place, we will use the song, "I Can Make You Happy", sung by Davy. The video is already up separately, but, hey....

Does anyone know if Casey Kasem (Shaggy) ever plugged the series while doing American Top 40 back then? I doubt it, but I want to make sure.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Birdboy (1967)

It wasn't enough that Birdman already had a sidekick in Avenger. Someone decided he needed a juvenile partner, giving the Solar Sentinel (Keith Andes) his own answer to the likes of Robin, Kid Flash, et al.

Enter Birdboy (Dick Beals), introduced as an semi-amnesiac left all alone at sea, separated from his father, who is presumed lost, thanks to an attack by the Barracuda. Since only one season of Birdman was produced, Birdboy never found his father.

Nearly 35 years later, when the series was resurrected as the satirical Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law, Birdboy was in turn revived as a clerk named Peanut. [Adult Swim]'s handling of the characters over a 6 year period has made it nigh impossible for anyone to properly mount a more appropriate revival of the original series that can finish the story that Hanna-Barbera's staff of writers had created in 1967. Today's audience has been conditioned not to take Birdman & Birdboy seriously. Not only that, but considering that Birdman's own origin was never fully explored, there is a whole wellspring of ideas left unused. That shouldn't be the case, but these are the sort of things that make older fans frustrated with Warner Bros. & Cartoon Network.

Edit, 9/6/2020: I've added a screencap:

Birdman & Birdboy

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Resurrecting the Classics (or: How to make older series relevant to a new generation)(Hint: It ain't easy)

An enterprising soul on ToonZone started a thread the other day inquiring about why WB couldn't develop a new series for one of Hanna-Barbera's oldest franchises, The Flintstones. It got me thinking.

The last anyone knew, writer-producer Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, "Ted") was developing a Flintstones revival for Fox, due this year, but the latest word is that project is on the ol' backburner, since MacFarlane has a lot on his plate these days (supposedly, there's a sequel to "Ted" on the way). He's admitted what most of us already knew, that Family Guy was inspired by The Flintstones, and, given how television shows are produced today, aims not for the funny bone, but somewhere lower on the viewer's body, if you get my drift. There were fears that MacFarlane might ruin the Flintstones by making it a Family Guy clone. Couple that with Cartoon Network and their shabby treatment of Mitch Watson's take on Scooby-Doo, which concluded last month, and the network's questionable decision making in general, and, well, maybe it wasn't the right time for The Flintstones to return.

In truth, if MacFarlane couldn't take on the project and give it his 100% attention or commitment, given he has 2 other series active at the present time, then why not let someone else take a swing at it? No one really knows for sure. All any creator has to do with the Flintstones, really, is retain the classic format. However, there is a glaring issue, which I admit I didn't bring up when I read the thread.

What to do with Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm???

As we've documented here in the past, the kids haven't been treated very well. Hanna-Barbera let them grow up, get married, and start a family. However, nowadays, save for a quick cameo in season 1 of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (blink, and you miss), whenever the kids appear in ads for Post's Pebbles line of cereals, they've reverted back to toddlers. Apparently, the advertising maroons who work for Kraft, Post's parent company, seem to think Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm are more marketable as preschoolers instead of teens or adults. You don't see Fred, Wilma, et al, shilling for Flintstones vitamins, now made by Bayer, anymore, but the product is still out there. Any ads would again have Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as toddlers. The rationale seems to be this. The Flintstones is far and away more accessible in reruns of its original 1960-6 series than later incarnations and spinoffs, thanks again to Cartoon Network and their brainless decision to lock most H-B series into the vaults and ignore them. They'll only run Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm on Boomerang when they see fit. Ditto the specials.

So, how do you get around this problem? That's easy. You pick up where H-B left off, and make the new series a generational sitcom, focusing on both Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as well as their parents, and an anthology format, where they can alternate the focus as needed, would be perfect for the project. Fox & WB don't want to make the same mistake CBS made with a Brady Bunch revival in 1990 and do a 1 hour dramedy. The Bradys crashed and burned because network suits thought viewers would gravitate back if the show aired on the same night and time as the original series did. They thought wrong. Seth MacFarlane is a Flintstones fan, and if he understands that he can't remold it in the raunchy image of his own shows, then he needs to address the issue with Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm before he can move forward. We'll see if that does happen.

Now, let's consider another argument, and that is how to pitch the next Scooby-Doo series, and, trust me, there will be one, as long as they keep churning out DTV movies and make mad beaucoup bucks.

One idea I have, and I hinted at it earlier in reviewing an old episode, is reviving the 1972-4 New Scooby-Doo Movies, but not under that title. A hour long cartoon isn't feasible anymore unless it's done right. Scooby can be put together with celebrities again. The producers of Batman: The Brave & The Bold paid homage by bringing in Scooby and the gang, plus special guest "Weird" Al Yankovic, for a guest shot. All that proves is that, in the right hands, the format can still work. There are fans who were turned off by Mystery Incorporated's serialized format, which CN crapped on by airing season 2 in weekday chunks last summer and last month because the current administration all of a sudden ain't digging action-adventure toons. A full-length team-up with "Weird" Al? I'd say that's doable. Original MTV VJ Martha Quinn guest-starred on Mystery Incorporated, and writer-producer Mitch Watson posited her as the owner of a record store, just for the sake of a pop culture tie-in, which, like a lot of his ideas, seemed like a good idea that came from throwing darts on a velcro dartboard. I wish I could see this episode On Demand, but noooooo!

However, if a Movies revival is a go, and it could be if next year's DTV crossover with the WWE is a huge hit, maybe Martha returns in a more familiar millieu, asking Scooby and co. for help. I'd dig.

Outside of that, the next series would have to be as far away from Mystery Incorporated as possible. By that, I mean it can't be too dark and gritty. That turned off some folks, as the serialized format took away the comedy that defined the franchise. The "fake monster of the week" gimmick is way past stale, and needs to be expunged in favor of a more serious whodunit format, which they experimented with in 2002's What's New Scooby-Doo series. I'd go for the whodunits in a heartbeat.

Lastly, someone asked about a Jetsons revival. Since rumors of a live-action movie seem to have landed in the waste bin, the one problem with reviving the series is trying to figure out how far into the future to set it, in correlation with the original 1962 series, which hit its 50th anniversary last year, and got no love from CN (what a shock). Since it partially is derivative of Flintstones in that George has a crabby boss and is on the opposite side of the time scale, I doubt we'll see it happen unless the Flintstones revival gets off the ground first. Speaking of movies that didn't happen, that includes a live-action Jonny Quest which had Zac Efron ("High School Musical") in the title role. That alone killed the project. Efron was too old for the role, and now it seems as though the rumor was one protracted April Fool joke that started a little too late for April 1.

On ToonZone, I tossed a few ideas around a few years back for some revivals. Some sensible, others a little more far-fetched. A few folks pitched in with their ideas. Now, it's time to revisit those ideas, and I'll have something down the line.

On the Air: Teen Titans GO! (2013)

Cartoon Network has apparently decided that action cartoons are passe. They screwed over fans of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated by airing second season episodes on weekday afternoons over a 2+ week period, first last summer, then last month. They alienated comics fans by opting to cancel Young Justice & Green Lantern, rather than expand the DC Nation block to two hours, likely due to commitments to Dragons: Riders of Berk or some other series. They were going to lose Star Wars: The Clone Wars, anyway, since the "Star Wars" franchise was picked up by Disney a few months back, so they cancelled the series, but it's likely to resurface in some form on DisneyXD in due course. Bottom line is, CN suits think comedy will bring the ratings, but there's a problem, there, too. The Looney Tunes Show is ending its run, too. Mad is perhaps the weakest of its short-form (15 minute) series, and, the less said about The Amazing World of Gumball, other than what I said when I reviewed that series a few months back, the better.

10 years ago, WB decided to adapt the 1980's New Teen Titans comics into an animated series. Problem was, Teen Titans was animated in a style resembling an Americanized form of Japanese anime, which wasn't a true fit. A year ago, Cartoon Network brought the Titans back in a series of shorts in the DC Nation block, which leads us to now.

Teen Titans GO! is the result of the success of the shorts, but the animation style clearly defines that WB & CN are aiming at a younger audience than with the previous series. Serious adventure? Fuhgeddaboutit. Silly comedy? Yup. They call this animation style "chibi". While it might work for preschoolers, and CN is aiming for tweens with this series, some comics fans will riot, I'm almost certain of that.

WB reunited the voice cast from the previous series, and if there is anything that carries over from the first series, it's the romance between Starfire and Robin, even if Starfire looks even younger than she did last time, which is some trick in and of itself. Sure, the cast is having fun. In the opener, Beast Boy & Cyborg engage in a silly duet about pies. Hope & Crosby they ain't.

Here's a trailer, which illustrates in detail just how silly this is.

If you're 13 and under, this is worth the trip. Anyone older? Either prepare to laugh your head off or do a series of facepalms.

Rating: C.

Celebrity Toons: Scooby-Doo meets Phyllis Diller (1972)

Here's another Scooby-Doo Movies entry from season 1, this one featuring the late Phyllis Diller in "A Good Medium is Rare".

Ms. Diller made her voice-over debut in the feature film, "Mad Monster Party", for Rankin-Bass, but this would be her only gig for Hanna-Barbera. A pity, in that the studio could've developed a series for her.

Following is a sample from the episode:

With Mystery, Incorporated having concluded its run recently, there's been some speculation about the next series. Count me among those who'd not mind a revival of the movie format, using current celebrities like NBA superstar LeBron James or the current incarnation of the Harlem Globetrotters. What do you guys think?

Rating: B.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Saturtainment: The Way It Was (1974)

From Sports Challenge producer Gerry Gross comes a discussion series looking back at classic sporting events. The trick was, The Way it Was aired on PBS instead of in syndication, as Challenge did. In more recent times, Disney acquired both series to air on ESPN Classic.

Way added to a busy workload for sportscasting icon Curt Gowdy when it launched in 1974. In addition to his regular duties calling baseball and NFL football for NBC, Gowdy was the host of a winter-spring ABC series, The American Sportsman, for much of its original run. On Way, Gowdy brought together players & coaches who participated in some of sports' greatest games or events. 

Edit, 3/15/22: Had to change the video. We have a mostly complete 1975 episode revisiting the 1936 Subway Series between the Yankees and the then-NY baseball Giants. Dick Enberg crosses over from Sports Challenge to act as a guest co-host.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

From Primetime to Daytime: Rawhide (1959)

Rawhide originally aired on Fridays during its network run (CBS), but after a Saturday afternoon run on Retro a few years back, it's now airing back-to-back episodes at lunch time on Saturdays on AMC (formerly American Movie Classics) as part of the network's attempt to mount a Western block in response to rival cable networks such as Me-TV and upstart INSP. Too many commercials, of course, disrupt the flow of the episodes.

While the iconic theme song, sung by Frankie Laine ("High Noon"), was covered by the Blues Brothers in 1980 (with Dan Aykroyd, as Elwood, on vocals), it took several more years before the series re-entered the public's consciousness thanks to those cable deals. Rawhide is also known as the series that helped launch the career of movie legend Clint Eastwood, and counted singer-comic Sheb Wooley as part of its ensemble cast as well.

Speaking of that theme tune, here's the inimitable Mr. Laine:

Rating: A.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Toons After Dark: Stripperella (2003)

Shortly after changing its name from The Nashville Network (or TNN, for short), Spike TV decided they wanted to cut in on [adult swim]'s action with adult cartoons. Unfortunately, that noble experiment ended in abject failure. Oh, did it ever.

But it wasn't for a lack of trying, oh, no sirree. Spike struck a deal with comics legend Stan Lee to develop a totally new animated series, and since Stan wasn't as actively involved at Marvel anymore, well..........!

Stripperella led off Spike's Thursday night 90-minute block, and, admittedly, had some of the best animation of the group. After all, it boasted Kevin Altieri, formerly of Warner Bros. Animation (i.e. Batman: The Animated Series) as a producer-director. Pamela Anderson (ex-Baywatch) not only was cast in the title role, she doubled as creative consultant on the series, and then-beau Kid Rock composed the show's closing theme. Unfortunately, that isn't available right at the moment.

So, where did Stripperella go wrong? Hard to say, really. You have to applaud Lee & Spike TV for thinking outside the box. Erotica Jones (Anderson) was a typical Stan Lee heroine, after a sort. Like, who'd ever think a stripper could moonlight as a costumed heroine? While there were the predictable teases of Erotica/Stripperella baring more than necessary, which would've raised red flags with the usual cast of namby-pamby zealots, there were no nip slips to be had. The show actually lacked in star power, as in guest stars. WWE honcho Vince McMahon, who'd made his toon debut on MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch a few years earlier, guested in one episode as a lecherous--and corrupt--businessman who tried to buy the club where Erotica worked. Too bad that episode isn't available.

Edit, 4/26/22: The video has been declared age-restricted by YouTube. In its place is this poster:

Rating: B-.

Toonfomercial: The most famous of them all (1970)

Everyone has seen this next clip.

Tootsie Roll added a lollipop variation way back in the day, and while the animation is as simplistic as all let go, there is plenty of star power to be had. It's widely believed that no less than Paul Winchell was the voice of the owl. The cow, I believe, may have been Frank Nelson. Now, don't kid yourselves. We've all asked the musical question, "how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?".

If you want an expert opinion from someone who actually tried it, the answer falls closer to 10, but then the joke at the end of this clip loses its flavor.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Legend of Tarzan (2001)

Two years after a loose adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic hero hit the big screen, Disney brought Tarzan back to television with The Legend of Tarzan, which spent two seasons split between ABC & UPN, then moving to cable on and off for the next decade.

Unlike his 1976-82 Filmation series for CBS, Tarzan (Michael T. Weiss, ex-The Pretender) is joined by wife Jane (Olivia D'Abo, ex-The Wonder Years), and her father, Professor Porter (Jeff Bennett). Some of the classic Burroughs novels were adapted again for this series, and Disney cleverly snuck Burroughs himself in for an episode (voiced by Steven Weber, ex-Wings). There were plenty of guest stars as well, ranging from singer Sheena Easton to TV vets such as Neil Patrick Harris, Dave Thomas, and Stephen Root. Only 38 episodes, however, were made, well below the maximum episode limit imposed by Disney.

Following is this series' adaptation of "Tarzan and the Lost City of Opar":

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Ghost vs. The Antimatter Man (1981)

Space Ghost (Gary Owens) faces off with "The Antimatter Man" in this short from the short-lived 1981 Space Stars series. The comic by-play between Jan & Jace bookending this story will remind some of another set of siblings who were appearing on another network around the same time, and it makes me think that this adventure might've been meant for a certain franchise on that other network. Agree or disagree?

As you can see, the Antimatter Man was a 1-shot villain who was quickly cured of his condition. Done-in-one stories such as these may need to make a comeback if toon fans want their action-adventure fix in the future, seeing as how the trend today is bending toward light comedy aimed at today's younger generation.

Rating: B+.

From Comics to Toons: Snuffy Smith (1961)

Several months back, we reviewed two-thirds of the King Features Trilogy, those being Krazy Kat & Beetle Bailey. Now, it's time to discuss the other part of that anthology package, Snuffy Smith.

Originally a supporting character behind Billy DeBeck's Barney Google, Snuffy proved so popular, such that he pushed his good buddy Barney off the comics pages, leaving him with just the occasional guest appearance in what used to be his own star vehicle. To that end, when Snuffy was chosen by King Features, Barney ended up getting 2nd billing, but only appeared in a handful of shorts, including the 1961 pilot, "Snuffy's Turf Luck", which ultimately made it to air a couple of years later. 50 cartoons in all were produced between 1961-4, with the omnipresent Paul Frees voicing both Barney & Snuffy, and, in "Turf Luck", the sheriff and some other supporting characters. So, yes, that is Paul, as Snuffy, singing the theme song.

We bring up "Turf Luck" simply because there has been a recent Barney sighting, as he guest-starred, along with his beloved race horse, Spark Plug, in the series finale of IDW's Popeye maxiseries, billed as a first-ever team-up of the two comic strip legends. Right now, however, it's post time for "Snuffy's Turf Luck".

Edit, 9/4/2020: The original video's been deleted. In its place, we have "Snuffy's Turf Luck" as the middle entry in a 3 episode block. Also included:

"Springtime & Spark Plug": Spark Plug falls for a filly running in the Hillbilly Derby. Paul Frees, of course, speaks for Spark Plug.

"Snuffy's Song": Barney sees money in Snuffy's singing, but when it requires moonshine and some Rube Goldbergian contraptions, trouble can't be too far behind:

It's just a coincidence that when this finally saw the light of airtime, it was after primetime television had been indundated with rural comedies such as The Beverly Hillbillies and The Real McCoys.

Rating: B-.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Celebrity Toons: Scooby-Doo meets Jonathan Winters (1972)

I wasn't planning on putting this up so soon, but with news that actor-comedian Jonathan Winters had died yesterday, I might as well bring this out.

"The Frickert Fracas" comes from season 1 of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, in which Winters--as himself AND one of his famous alter-egos, Maudie Frickert---enlists the aid of Scooby and Mystery, Inc. to locate the usual bad guys, who in this case are looking to take away Maudie's farm.

For Frank Welker (Fred), it must've been like Heaven working with one of the all-time comedy legends. They would work together again years later on Smurfs, after Winters joined the show.

Rating: B.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Toons After Dark: Celebrity Deathmatch (1998)

Some of us have probably wished that certain overexposed celebrities would fight each other. Well, MTV decided to do something about that.

In 1998, the network introduced the claymation series, Celebrity Deathmatch, and I can't think of a better show to launch our new feature, "Toons After Dark", even though Deathmatch did air for some time on Saturday mornings on MTV (because they played the show into the ground like they do everything else). Deathmatch was the creation of cartoonist Eric Fogel (ex-The Head portion of Oddities), and while the claymation figures weren't exact likenesses of the actual celebrities, more often than not, watching them get killed was part of the show's charm.

Veteran boxing referee Mills Lane, who'd later end up getting a courtroom show of his own, and wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin contributed to the series. Austin even brought WWE boss Vince McMahon onto the show to continue their feud, which was McMahon's first cartoon credit. Lane's health issues, however, prevented him from returning for a short-lived revival in 2006, and actor Chris Edgerly took his place. Commentator Debbie Matenopoulos (ex-The View) was the only other real-life person who was on the show, and didn't really add anything to the festivities. Veteran voice actor Len Maxwell, better known for his work on series such as Batfink in the 60's, came out of retirement to voice commentator Nick Diamond. The original run of four years and 75 episodes, along with the 2006-7 revival, now are in the vaults somewhere.

Edit, 4/26/22: The video was deleted due to copyright reasons. So, we'll give you a title card:

Unfortunately, complete half-hour episodes are not available on YouTube. We just have to make do.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Animal Man (2012)

If you've been following DC Nation on Cartoon Network since its launch last year, chances are you've probably seen the following quickies that were uploaded by various folks. Before we get to the videos, though, a little history lesson is in order on Animal Man.

The late Carmine Infantino co-created the character, who was introduced in the pages of Strange Adventures in the early days of the Silver Age. It wasn't until some 20-odd years ago, however, that Animal Man would finally be granted his own series. Scottish writer Grant Morrison redefined and refined the character, making him much more respected by comics fans. The current series is far more serious than the wacky videos that have aired on DC Nation.

Perhaps following in the tradition of Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Animal Man is never seen out of costume, and is played strictly for laughs. Even more surprising is who was cast in the part------rock satirist "Weird" Al Yankovic!

Now, scope out Animal Man as he agonizes over Black Manta destroying a sand castle meant for a crab, and reams out an average guy for abandoning his dog while Darkseid attacks. Stuff you'd probably associate with MAD instead of a normal comic book, but......

MAD has contributed to DC Nation during the course of its run, as we'll see down the road.

Rating: C.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday Morning Ringside: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (1986)

Consider the state of women's wrestling in the 21st century.

WWE labels their female competitors as "divas". TNA, in contrast, calls them "knockouts". Either way, they're still a little higher up the food chain from the collection of actresses and models hired by David MacLane and Jackie Stallone (mother of you know who) to form the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the original incarnation of which lasted four years (1986-90). Yes, it did air on Saturday mornings in New York, on WPIX, which was looking again for wrestling after Pro Wrestling USA folded.

Today, a former (and perhaps current) GLOW wrestler owns the company and has spearheaded a revival, but has yet to get the new GLOW a television contract. GLOW was set up differently than other promotions in that they pre-taped 26 weeks of episodes well in advance, and I don't think there were any house shows. There have been other female-centric wrestling promotions, some campy, like GLOW, others far more serious, such as Shimmer. 5 years ago, WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Hart was involved in something called Wrestlicious, which barely got off the ground.

Part of GLOW's legacy lies in the fact that one of their original wrestlers later found fame in the WWE. Before becoming Ivory, former college cheerleader Lisa Moretti wrestled for GLOW under the name, Tina Ferrari.

Now, let's take a look back at just how silly this all was, in a match between the Housewives and the Soul Patrol.

Now, I'm a wrestling fan, but I have my limits.

Rating: D.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Impossibles vs. the Sinister Speck (1966)

In the 60's, the use of the phrase "unfriendly power" in television series usually meant a Communist nation like China or the Soviet Union. If the Impossibles fought the Sinister Speck today, he'd be selling his stolen secrets to, oh, I don't know, maybe Iran?

Let's just show you what kind of goofy foes our rock & roll heroes have to deal with.......

Speck should be lucky he didn't get stepped on when he was as small as a, well, speck of dust!

Rating: C.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On the Air: LazyTown (2004)

With NBC's Saturday lineup now programmed by PBS Kids Sprout, along comes LazyTown, making its return to Saturday mornings to encourage kids to be active. No, really.

LazyTown was developed in Iceland (!), and thus is the first series from that country to be imported to the US. The series originally aired here on Nickelodeon, which eventually outsourced the series to CBS for a year or two. Two years ago, PBS acquired the series, and had been running it on its Sprout channel (not available in all areas; check your listings). When they took over programming NBC's Saturday morning lineup from Qubo, it made sense to bring LazyTown along.

LazyTown only employs a small group of human actors. The rest are puppets. Sportacus is the town's resident hero and athletic maven. Stephanie is the mayor's niece. Robbie Rotten, as his name implies, is the villain, who'd prefer the city of LazyTown to revert back to being dull, boring, and slothful, and would do anything to get the better of Sportacus. Unfortunately, he never succeeds, and even if he did, his plot is abruptly undone, usually thanks to Stephanie.

Following is the intro:

Now, you can't expect your kids to suddenly run & jump like Sportacus, but you know what they say, practice is perfect.

Rating: A.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Flinstone Comedy Hour/Show (1972)

CBS invested in not one, but two hour-long cartoons from Hanna-Barbera in 1972. We've scoped out The New Scooby-Doo Movies a few times, but now let's take a look at a forgotten entry.

The Flintstone Comedy Hour (later trimmed to 30 minutes and had Show replace Hour in the title) was the result of CBS execs finding that viewers might just be interested in new Flintstones cartoons, six years after the original series had ended, to go along with the returning Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, with the latter feature in shorter doses. However, this didn't work out quite as well as hoped, and the series was subsequently cancelled. Hope wasn't lost, though, as the Flintstone Comedy Show would return a few years later on NBC.

There were a couple of cast changes. Sally Struthers, who had originated the role of teenage Pebbles, had left the series due to commitments to All in The Family, among other things, and a newcomer, Mickey Stevens, was cast to take her place. Also Gay Autterson (nee Hartwig) was the third actress to essay the role of Betty Rubble, though she actually debuted the previous year. Gerry Johnson, who had succeeded Bea Benaderet toward the end of the original Flintstones, wasn't brought back. Unfortunately, there are no complete episodes available on YouTube, and all we have is this intro, under the Flintstone Comedy Show title, uploaded by hewey1972:

You'll note that the last line of the theme song was changed to reflect a change in the definition of the word "gay" in popular culture. Somehow, "groovy" didn't work, and when the series was revived a few years later, the word was changed to "great", which fit a lot better.

No rating. Didn't see this version due to commitments of my own back then.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Looney TV: To Hare Is Human (1956)

I don't know about you, but it seems someone at WB wanted to see Bugs Bunny with someone else for a change, as opposed to Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam or Daffy Duck, as a foil. Chuck Jones decided that Wile E. Coyote, erstwhile nemesis of the Road Runner, would fill the bill.

Wile & Bugs teamed a few times, including one memorable occasion where Bugs actually was a stand-in for his "fast-feathered friend", as he'd intro Road Runner on their CBS Saturday morning show years later. However, we're taking you back to 1956 and "To Hare Is Human", which posits a talking Wile as a genius, right down to having a business card. He is so brazen, as you'll see in the first moment of the picture, to break into Bugs' domicile and capture him. Of course, you realize this means war!

It's just too bad they couldn't do anything to reciprocate for the Road Runner, but then, sending Elmer after him would be a lost cause.

Rating: A.

Toonfomercial: Raid's Easy Roaches (1969)

Time was when it was much more common than it is now to deal with roaches and other insects. To that end, Johnson Wax (now SC Johnson) introduced their Raid line of bug sprays with a series of partially animated commercials. The second half of the ads usually showed a housewife demonstrating the product in the home and garden.

The earliest ads, which began in 1956, were directed by cartoon legend Fred "Tex" Avery, who has also been credited by some sources with helming the following item from 1969, though the character designs might actually be the work of another artist, such as Jack Davis, who for years was a contributor to Mad Magazine & TV Guide. Two more cartoon legends, Paul Frees & Mel Blanc, are the voices of the bugs in this "Easy Rider" parody, narrated by actor William Schallert (ex-The Patty Duke Show).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Saturday School: NBA Inside Stuff (1990)

When NBC was the broadcast home for NBA basketball in the early 90's, the network and the league decided to develop a Saturday morning series (Saturday afternoons, actually) that would recap the week's action and have profiles on certain players. Sort of like This Week In Baseball, which usually ended its season in October back then, but now ends when the Major League Baseball regular season does.

And, so, in 1990, NBC introduced NBA Inside Stuff, a weekly magazine series hosted by former NFL player-turned-analyst Ahmad Rashad. Once the Association decided to end its partnership with NBC, the series shifted over to ABC, and Rashad went with it. However, due to college football commitments, ABC often shuffled Stuff to Sunday afternoons, resulting in a decline in viewers and ratings, and ABC finally cancelled the series in 2005. However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Stuff lives on, currently airing on NBA-TV in a floating slot and hosted by Olympic swimming champion-turned-cable personality Summer Sanders.

Following is a 1994 episode devoted to "The Round Mound of Rebound", Charles Barkley.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't call them heroes: Magilla Gorilla in Super Blooper Heroes (1966)

Inasmuch as Hanna-Barbera jumped in full bore into the superhero genre in 1966 with Space Ghost & Dino Boy & Frankenstein Jr. & The Impossibles on CBS and, to a lesser extent, the juvenile Space Kiddettes on NBC, Magilla Gorilla got in on the action over on ABC in this offering, "Super Blooper Heroes", in which Magilla (Allan Melvin) & Mr. Peebles (who sounds like Don Messick taking over for Howard Morris) decide to emulate TV hero Captain Super-Magnificent (Messick), with predictable results.

Edit: 8/24/16: The video has been deleted.

I may be wrong, but the costume design is similar to that of Frankenstein, Jr., so H-B was poking fun at itself in a way. Plus, that upside-down triangular shield has been a comics staple for years, dating all the way back to Superman.

Rating: C.

Sunday Funnies: Mister Ed (1961)

Cartoon enthusiasts may only know Alan Young as a voice actor during the late 70's (Battle of the Planets) and 80's (DuckTales), but in truth, Young was a veteran entertainer who'd been a television fixture in the 50's through the mid-60's.

His most famous series was Mister Ed, which bowed the same year as Filmways stablemate The Beverly Hillbillies, and, if memory serves, on the same network (CBS). Young played Wilbur Post, whose horse, Ed, would only converse with him, but not with Wilbur's wife, Carol (Connie Hines). Western star Allan "Rocky" Lane voiced Ed, and one must assume the two Al(l)ans also dueted on the theme song.

Currently, cable rights to the series are split between This TV and Hallmark, with the latter airing the show on Sunday mornings on Hallmark Movie Channel.

Basically what the folks at Filmways sought to do was duplicate the success Universal was having with its Francis the Talking Mule movie series, and in a way they succeeded. Whereas the Francis movies had a great deal of airplay in syndication in the 70's, you'd be lucky to find them on cable today. Mister Ed ran for 6 seasons, and is better remembered as a result.

Following is the episode, "Ed & The Secret Service", with Bob Hastings (McHale's Navy) as one of the agents:

I remember when the series aired in repeats on Nick at Nite in the late 80's. The network's clever ad campaign reintroduced Ed to a new generation of viewers, which has enabled the series to be passed around over the last 25 years.

Rating: B-.