Thursday, October 31, 2013

On DVD: Flight 29 Down (2005)

While Discovery Kids might've been late to the party in terms of teen horror (Strange Days At Blake Holsey High, reviewed earlier this week), that wasn't the case with Flight 29 Down, which anchored NBC's Saturday morning lineup for a couple of seasons.

Flight 29 Down was meant to be a juvenile version of ABC's then-hot drama, Lost, and partially came from the pen of D. J. MacHale (ex-Are You Afraid of the Dark?), who knows a thing or twenty about teen drama. Unfortunately, Flight comes across as part drama, part semi-reality show, the latter in the video diary segments sprinkled in by Nathan McHugh (Corbin Bleu, "High School Musical"), whom the show is built around. Nathan is part of a school field trip that ends up crashing on a deserted (we think) island in the South Pacific. There are the predictable teen stereotypes, including the vapid airhead, although in this case she does have a positive outlook on things at first. Sorry to say, but Flight only lasted about half as long as Lost, and didn't have the fan following, despite Bleu's presence.

Following is the series opener:

Lesson to be learned. Never trust a plane named after a question in a crossword puzzle.

Rating: C.

Spooktober: The Ghost & Mr. Panther (1993)

From the 1993 syndicated Pink Panther series comes a parody of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. An elderly woman leaves the Panther (Matt Frewer) in charge of her home for a day, and he has to deal with a pesky parrot, among other things, in "The Ghost & Mr. Panther":

No rating.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spooktober: Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991)

In the wake of the runaway success of Fox's adaptation of R. L. Stine's Goosebumps, you knew there would be others trying to grab a piece of the action.

Nickelodeon had the right answer, it seems. The network introduced Are You Afraid of the Dark? to their Saturday night Snick block, but the series was so popular, reruns inevitably began airing weeknights as well. Dark came from the pen of author D. J. MacHale, and lasted 7 seasons in all. Much like another Nick series, All That, Dark introduced viewers to a number of young talents, including Rachel Blanchard (later of Clueless).

Edit, 3/15/22: "The Tale of Vampire Town" was deleted. In its place is a logo:

Dark also attracted other stars, including Emmy winner Frank Gorshin, Olympic skating champ Tara Lipinski, and Nick alumnus Melissa Joan Hart. Down the line, we'll play some other episodes, including a couple of my own favorites.

Rating: B.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Saturday School: Strange Days at Blake Holsey High (2002)

When Discovery Kids (now The Hub) began programming NBC's Saturday morning block, they brought some diversity into the latter network's schedule that had been missing for some time. In addition to the return of animated programming to NBC, DK also had some live-action dramas, as opposed to NBC being overrun with sitcoms (teencoms) since the 90's.

One of those dramas was the Canadian-produced science-fiction series, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, which spent 4 seasons on the air (2002-6). A decade earlier, it might've fit right at home with other live-action fantasy shows with a high school theme, such as ABC's Bone Chillers.

The final three episodes of the series were stitched together into a TV-movie, which was the last anyone had seen of Blake Holsey High. When DK became The Hub 3 years ago, the series was dumped in the network's vaults and has hardly been seen.

Here's the intro:

I didn't see enough of the show to merit a rating.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spooktober: Inspector Gadget in Transylvania (Haunted Castle, 1983)

Wowsers! Inspector Gadget (Don Adams) travels to Transylvania intent on a crime fighters convention, but Dr. Claw (Frank Welker) is waiting for him with a trap. Here's "Haunted Castle":

Cookie Jar, which bought DIC, is developing a new Inspector Gadget series, having reacquired the rights to the series after 2 movies from Disney. Whomever is cast as Gadget has a tough act to follow.

Rating: B.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Spooktober: The Haunting of Riverdale (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 1999)

Time for another episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries. This time, Archie investigates sightings of a ghost at the Riverdale Public Library. But what does Jughead have to do with it? Here's "The Haunting of Riverdale", uploaded by TBEntertain:

No rating. Didn't see this episode.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween comes early for Cartoon Network viewers: CN plays a cruel trick by pulling Beware the Batman

I am not going to waste my time quoting Santayana again to open this post, but his words need to be relayed to the morons in charge of Cartoon Network.

One year ago, CN suits pulled Young Justice & Green Lantern out of the DC Nation Saturday block, holding them off until the early part of this year before cancelling them outright. Now, the same fate may befall Beware The Batman, as it was reported yesterday that the series will not air this Saturday, and will return in January. As was the case last year, CN refused to offer a tangible explanation for the change, which means that DC Nation, aside from the quickies in between shows, will be a full hour of the inferior Teen Titans Go!, a comedy series that seems to appeal more to the target audience than the high impact drama of Beware.

Those of us who learned about CN's lame practices from the last few years can speculate on the two likely reasons for Beware being pulled.

1. Ratings apparently aren't strong enough. Well, if that was the case, why not flip the two series over and let Beware air at 10:30 (ET)? Because CN honchos Stuart Snyder & Rob Sorcher, who don't know a good idea when they see one, see little or no value in action cartoons these days.

2. Merchandising. DC just launched a comics version of Beware yesterday. I cannot state any sales figures on the action figures because I haven't been at Toys 'R' Us or checked the toy department at Walmart. One must imagine that the figures ain't moving because of a 3rd, even more likely reason among even long time Bat-fans:

3. Bat-fatigue. WB Animation has produced Batman cartoons on a steady basis for 21 years. Even Scooby-Doo needed a break every now and again, which is why it took 4 years between Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue and Mystery, Incorporated. Mitch Watson is one of the show runners on Beware, and so that leads to a 4th reason:

4. Backlash on Watson. A lot of people were turned off by Watson's reimagining of the Scooby-Doo franchise, but CN turned their backs on Watson by burning off Season 2 of Mystery Incorporated in 2 chunks of daily episodes and refusing to air repeats. Still, WBA gave Watson the assignment on Beware to see if he could handle another icon. The low ratings would suggest that there is little patience with another gradually developing storyline. Add to this the fact that Watson and his staff chose to avoid using the traditional Batman Rogues Gallery (Joker, Riddler, et al) right away and giving some shine to lesser known characters. If Beware The Batman ends up getting the hook for good from CN, I'd say Watson would be well served to follow fellow creators Craig McCracken and the Man of Action studio out of CN and move elsewhere.

Make no mistake, I think Watson did the right thing in this case by opting for more obscure characters and getting people to care about them. He knew, just like we all did, that Joker, Catwoman, etc., had been in need of a break from being in every Bat-series, so he sent them on vacation for now. If he can convince the suits at DC that, say, Magpie would be worth resurrecting in the New 52 Universe, well, more power to him.

Because of the severe disconnect between WB & CN, I'd say also that WB would be well served to shop around their properties to other cablers going forward, given CN's lack of respect under Snyder & Sorcher. You know Nickelodeon, the Hub, and maybe even Disney Channel would take a shot in a heartbeat to pick up a fresh take on the Justice League.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spooktober: Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999)

It seemed only appropriate that Cartoon Network, marking the 30th anniversary of Scooby-Doo, added a smaller canine who was even more of a chicken than Scooby!

Courage the Cowardly Dog debuted on World Premiere Toons (aka The What a Cartoon Show) 3 years earlier, and the debut short, "The Chicken From Outer Space", was also released in theatres and nominated for an Academy Award. The series bowed in 1999, lasted 4 "seasons", but 3 years total, and is in reruns on CN & Boomerang (check listings). Veteran voice actor Lionel Wilson (ex-Mighty Heroes) voiced Eustace.

Here's the open:

Silly, repetitive (naturally), but dull.

Rating: C+.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Saturday School: Computer Critters (1984)

In 1984, ABC introduced a new series of animated interstitals aimed at educating young viewers.

Unfortunately, only 4 Computer Critters shorts were produced. At the time, there was no such thing as the internet, as the information super-highway was in its infancy. Around this time, I was just getting used to using a computer, as part of a training course I was taking.

TimKangaroo uploaded the first episode of Computer Critters:

Today, it's still a teaching tool for beginners, but not much more. Rating: A.

Lou Scheimer (1928-2013)

Regular correspondent Geed tipped me to this bit of unfortunate news.

Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer passed away on Thursday, two days shy of his 85th birthday. Not only was Scheimer involved on the production end of things, but he also had the time to contribute some voice work to many of Filmation's cartoons, often either uncredited or using a stage name. His two children from his first marriage, son Lane and daughter Erika, would follow him to the microphone during the 70's.

Scheimer was also the announcer for most of Filmation's live-action entries in the 70's, including Shazam!, Jason of Star Command (he was the announcer for Tarzan & The Super 7, anyway) & The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (1981). His voice work included Bat-Mite (New Adventures of Batman) & Orko (He-Man & The Masters of the Universe). Imagine if Filmation and not Ruby-Spears had acquired Alvin & The Chipmunks in the 80's. Scheimer probably wouldn't need his voice sped up, like Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. did.

Last year, Scheimer was honored at Comic-Con International in San Diego, as he made his final convention appearance. Author Andy Mangels is the moderator. Here is the video:

Rest in peace, Lou. Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Spooktober: Bunnicula, The Vampire Rabbit (1982)

From the ABC Weekend Special comes an adaptation of James & Deborah Howe's Bunnicula, The Vampire Rabbit, produced by Ruby-Spears, which did most of the animated entries for the anthology series, which included some episodes that later spun off into The Puppy's Great Adventures.

Edit, 10/2/20: Had to change the video. This copy is a repeat broadcast from 1983, complete with commercials, and bumpers with then-hosts Willie Tyler & Lester:

Bunnicula's cast includes a mini-Battle of the Planets reunion of Alan Dinehart (also the voice director), Alan Young, & Janet Waldo. Young & Waldo are the unsuspecting parents who take in Bunnicula, prompting the family pets, Chester & Harold, to take action, thinking the worst. The story is told by Harold (Jack Carter, in a rare voice role).


 No rating. Never saw this the first time around.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

You Know The Voice: June Foray & John Stephenson (1955)

Here's a 2-for-1 special.

From Johnny Carson's self-titled 1955 primetime show come a pair of voice-over legends, plus a 3rd who isn't quite at legendary level.

That would be Sara Berner, who went uncredited for her work for Warner Bros. in the Golden Age. She appears in the midst of this clip, which is bookended by the two legends we spoke of, June Foray & John Stephenson.

June Foray, the grand dame of voice acting, seems to have been around since the dawn of time, right along with Janet Waldo. June made a rare on-camera appearance in the following skit, which demonstrates just how much the future King of Late Night had to learn before perfecting his craft. Meanwhile, John Stephenson was a regular on The Johnny Carson Show, appearing as the anchorman for the Catch Up With The News segment, which falls apart as soon as Johnny gives away the joke a wee bit too early. Stephenson spent quite a bit of time in front of the cameras in the 60's, working on a number of Westerns, as well as a few appearances on Hogan's Heroes. As we've documented in the past, he also served as a narrator early on during the 1967 run of Dragnet.

Uploaded by RRaquello.

Animated World of DC Comics: How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow (1968)

Batman (Olan Soule) has his hands full with the Joker in this 1968 cartoon. "How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow".

Edit, 1/21/19: The video has been deleted. If/when it returns, we'll bring it back.

Rating: A.

Friday, October 18, 2013

On The Air: Wander Over Yonder (2013)

Take the inventive whimsy of Dr. Seuss, mix it together with the up-tempo slapstick comedy of Looney Tunes, and you have an idea of Disney's latest hit, Wander Over Yonder.

Wander (Jack McBrayer, ex-30 Rock) is a space traveler who keeps crossing paths with galactic despot Lord Hater (Keith Ferguson), oblivious to the threat Hater poses to the universe. Wander's best friend & sidekick, Sylvia (April Winchell) is a horse-like steed who can also stand on her hind legs, much like 30-30 did for Bravestarr more than a quarter-century ago. However, unlike 30-30, Sylvia is mostly all talk. The eternally cheerful Wander manages to win the day via sheer luck, which frustrates Hater to no end.

The series' opening episode, "The Greatest", took several pages from the Bugs Bunny playbook as Wander finessed Hater into defeat. The backup, "The Egg", was for all intents & purposes a left-handed homage to Dr. Seuss' Horton Hatches The Egg, which was the sequel to Horton Hears a Who. Let's scope out this sample clip from "The Greatest". Let's face it, Muhammad Ali Hater ain't.

Ah, such fun. Too bad Disney has no room for it in the daytime. Yet.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Mexican Radio (1982)

From American Bandstand comes a two-song mini-set from Stan Ridgway and Wall of Voodoo. We start with their lone Top 40 hit, "Mexican Radio", followed by "Tomorrow", with an interview conducted by Dick Clark in between.

Toons After Dark: Aeon Flux (1991)

Aeon Flux was one of two series spun off from MTV's 1991 anthology series, Liquid Television. Of course, the other one was Beavis & Butt-Head, and the only other thing the two series have in common is that both graduated to the big screen. However, the feature film version of Aeon was a live-action film starring Charlize Theron, which didn't do very well at the box office.

Animator Peter Chung had worked on Nickelodeon's Rugrats, but wanted to do his own thing. In fact, you can probably detect a certain similarity in the designs, although MTV didn't contract Klasky-Csupo, producers of Rugrats, to help with their show. Aeon was as far removed from anything else on Liquid Television as you could possibly get. The six short features would lead to the regular series a year later, but that lasted just 5 episodes, and was brought back three years after that for 10 more. The common thread was a glaring lack of continuity. Aeon was being killed off in every episode, supposedly because Chung didn't think there'd be a need for further episodes. So you can say that this particular gimmick was ripped off by South Park, which launched just a couple of years after Aeon ended.

Here's the open:

Chung was better off getting a comic book deal.

Rating: C.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Dave the Barbarian (2004)

Imagine if the late Jay Ward had developed a spoof of, say, Conan the Barbarian. Doug Langdale (The Weekenders) must've had that thought in mind when he created Dave The Barbarian, which spent a year on Disney Channel, debuting in January 2004.

Dave (Danny Cooksey, Xiaolin Showdown) is a coward at heart who'd rather cook and do needlepoint. As the only son of the king & queen of his kingdom, it falls on Dave to protect his sisters from harm. Ha! Older sister Candy seems to be more on the ball than Dave is, but is also a stereotypical teenager who'd rather be at the mall than fighting monsters. The other sister, the oddly named Fang, doesn't like being referred to as a monkey, but seemingly hasn't seen herself in a mirror to see why people think of her that way.

Because it was a light-hearted comedy adventure with moral lessons included (if you can find them in the story), you'd think Disney would've repurposed the series on ABC. Nope. It aired exclusively on Disney Channel, then shifted to Toon Disney (now DisneyXD) a year later, and hasn't been seen since then. Dave Feiss (Cow & Chicken) can be credited with the character designs, I think, paying homage to Sergio Aragones & Mark Evanier's barbaric spoof, Groo the Wanderer.

Here's the first episode:

I think they were hoping for Bullwinkle in the Middle Ages, but the viewers didn't respond in kind.

Rating: C.

Sunday Funnies: Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)

3 years after a teaser ended "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein", the boys encounter another legend from Universal's vaults in "Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man".

Arthur Franz is the title transparency this time, a boxer named Jimmy Nelson framed for murder by a shady promoter (Sheldon Leonard). Bud & Lou are rookie PI's on their first case, and Lou goes undercover as a boxer, with Jimmy as his back-up, to nail the real killer. William Frawley (I Love Lucy) co-stars as a police detective assigned to the case.

Following is what's billed online as a trailer.....

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Literary Toons: Tales of Washington Irving (1970)

Oy! G'day, mate! This time, we're serving up a Famous Classic Tales episode from 1970, back when Air Programs International of Australia was developing the series.

"Tales of Washington Irving" adapts the author's most famous works, Rip Van Winkle & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Ya might want to pay close attention to the latter story, which is up first, to get a handle on Fox's modern day Sleepy Hollow, which has little to do with the book or Tim Burton's adaptation of same from a few years back. Instead, Fox is trying to copy CBS' success with Elementary, but we'll discuss that another day over in The Land of Whatever.

Anyway, I remember seeing this the first time around. Sleepy Hollow has been adapted more often than Rip Van Winkle through the years, for obvious reasons.

Edit, 6/25/19: Had to change the video. The trailer was also used for a series review of Famous Classic Tales:

Maybe back then, they should've invented the alarm clock for Mr. Van Winkle, don't you think?

Rating: A.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: She-Hulk (Incredible Hulk, 1982)

There's a right way, and a wrong way.---Oliver Hardy

The live-action Incredible Hulk took its cues from The Fugitive, sacrificing much of what made the comic book so popular, that being its supporting cast. Once the CBS series ended its run, Marvel saw the means to rectify that little oversight.

Hulk, like Batman 14 years earlier, changed networks in addition to shifting from live-action to animation, from CBS to NBC, linked with Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends for a powerhouse hour of adventure. The downside was that this was at the bottom of NBC's lineup, where most shows usually end up getting ignored by affiliates. NBC made sure that wouldn't be the case.

In this episode, Bruce Banner (Michael Bell) travels to Los Angeles with Rick Jones to locate his cousin, attorney Jennifer Walters, aka the She-Hulk. Banner explains She-Hulk's origin, encapsulating the actual origin from She-Hulk's comics debut a couple of years earlier. Narrator Stan Lee wrote that original origin story, adapted by writer Michael Reaves for television. This time, the cousins experiment with giving Hulk (Bob Holt) Bruce's mind, so that Banner can control his changes, like Jennifer does. However, Hydra, with a base in LA, is attempting an experiment of their own, involving Banner's on-again, off-again girlfriend (and later wife in the comics), Betty Ross, who's trying to stop it. Of course, you know what this will do to Banner's experiment.

31 years later, Marvel Studios is trying to have their cake and eat it, too, using a savage Hulk on Avengers Assemble while letting him be a brainy wiseacre on Hulk & The Agents of S.M.A.S.H.. Then again, their television division these days is run by imbeciles.

For now, let's take a trip back in time with "Enter: The She-Hulk". I should note that Michael Bell's actress-wife, Victoria Carroll, voices both Jen & She-Hulk.

Well, it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? Rating: A-.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Super Samurai vs. Scarlet Samurai (Freedom Force, 1978)

Jealousy often leads friends to drift apart. That's the central theme of this episode of Freedom Force on Tarzan & The Super 7.

Toshi (Michael Bell, who also voices Merlin) befriends another youth, Kyoto, who challenges him to various competitions. Frustrated at being defeated, Kyoto makes a deal with a demonic spirit seeking revenge on Kyoto's dad to become the Scarlet Samurai (who sounds like an uncredited Ted Cassidy) in opposition to Toshi's alter-ego, the Super Samurai. It may take the rest of the Force to turn the tide.

Uploaded by TheWizardCalledShazam:

I guess writer Gerry Boudreau must've seen "War of the Gargantuas" a few times. A film like that springs to mind, not only because it was a Japanese film, but because of the two Japanese youth in the story.

Rating: B.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends (2004)

If you had an imaginary friend when you were a kid, what would you do when it was time to let it go?

That's the question posed by Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls) in his 2004 Cartoon Network series, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, which was in production for 4-5 years, usually airing at night, as it does now on Boomerang.

In the opinion of his mother, 8-year-old Mac has outgrown his imaginary friend, Bloo, a living security blanket. So, Mac takes Bloo to Foster's, but ends up having plenty of adventures there, not just with Bloo, but with the rest of the house's tenants. In this writer's opinion, Mac & Bloo might be McCracken's homage to Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts) and his security blanket, which was the source of many gags, usually involving Snoopy or Linus' sister, Lucy, over the years. Much like Genndy Tartatovsky's Samurai Jack, some of the character designs look like they were inspired by author Maurice Sendak's seminal work, Where the Wild Things Are.

These days, McCracken has taken his tack to Disney, where he's developed a new series, Wander Over Yonder, which we'll review another time. Meantime, scope out the open to Foster's Home:

Rating: A-.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On The Air: SheZow (2012)

Oy! Here's one that the Disney Channel let get away. Maybe they knew something that The Hub didn't.

In 2007, Obie Scott Wade developed SheZow for Disney Channel's Shorty McShorts series of pilots, but the Mouse House passed. Five years passed, and SheZow debuted in Australia, arriving in the US on The Hub earlier this year. The radical concept has gotten the wrong kind of attention from the usual moral zealot groups, including One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association.

Why? The concept of SheZow has a 12 year old boy finding a magic ring belonging to his late aunt, who was her generation's SheZow. Guy Hamdon dons the ring and while mocking the concept, transforms into SheZow right in front of his sister, who becomes part of his support team. The gender-swapping in the transformation is what got One Million Moms and other like minded groups upset, but as usual, they're just trying to nanny the target audience away. Then again, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea, considering that this is a dud.

It's not the flash animation or the concept that bugs me. American actor Sam Vincent (ex-Krypto The Superdog, Baby Looney Tunes) dubbed over the original Australian actor cast as Guy, but was that really necessary? No. No offense to Vincent, an outstanding actor, but it wouldn't have hurt to have left this show alone for the American audience and let the original Australian version be used. It's not like SheZow is a big hit anyway.

Scope out the opener, which looks like it was dubbed for broadcast in Canada before coming to the US.

I just don't see too many kids going out as SheZow for Halloween. Do you?

Rating: C-.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On The Air: Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch (2013)

France's Moonscoop Studios has supplied The Hub with a few series in the network's three year history (i.e. Twisted Whiskers, Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures), but as we've documented, they also have acquired a bad reputation when it comes to licensed series based on comic books, such as Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes.

That bad rep has spoiled their latest, Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, which bowed today on The Hub. The series was originally promised for the summer, but apparently, someone at The Hub decided to hold it until now, to get it close to Halloween as possible. Either that, or Moonscoop needed more time to have enough episodes in the can to bring the series forward. Either way, the end result is a major disappointment.

In this series, Sabrina (Ashley Tisdale, Phineas & Ferb, ex-Suite Life of Zack & Cody) moves freely between our world and the Magical World (formerly known as the Other Realm in the live-action series and its animated spinoffs, from 1996-2003). In the latter, she's a princess, destined to one day rule the Magical World as its queen. Enchantra covets what Sabrina has, and plots to keep her in the Magical World, where she and her son can steal Sabrina's birthright. Making matters worse, Enchantra has conscripted the Spellman family familiar, Salem, as a double agent. Not good.

Meanwhile, Sabrina's Aunt Zelda has reverted to her original appearance as a plus sized sorceress, which is how we were introduced to her many years ago. Aunt Hilda doesn't have the elongated nose like she did in the Filmation series, but instead remains more human in appearance. Just the same, the sisters advise and remind Sabrina that she can't risk her dual heritage in front of humans.

I had high hopes for this series, but after the first few minutes, I just couldn't stick with it. The writers didn't bother doing any research, and I just don't like the idea of Sabrina having to deal with Enchantra and her spoiled brat son on a weekly basis. On the mortal plane, the Spellmans remain based in Greendale, the setting for the previous series. While it worked for the sitcom, it doesn't work here. Sabrina is also a major player in a new Archie Comics series that launched earlier this week (which might be another reason for the delay with this show), and, of course, in that book, Sabrina returns to the short, platinum blond hair she had when we first met her more than 40 years ago. I digress.

Right now, all we have for you is a promo ad from the Hub's YouTube channel. On the show, I believe Ashley Tisdale also sings the show's theme song. Here's the promo:

If it gets renewed beyond this season, it's a miracle. Rating: C+.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Toons After Dark: Duckman (1994)

Cartoonist Everett Peck's underground creation, Duckman, came to television in 1994, and goes on record as the only series that Klasky-Csupo sold to a cable network other than Nickelodeon. Klasky-Csupo produced the series in conjunction with Paramount, and sold it to USA Network, the first and only primetime animated series to air on the channel.

Eric T. Duckman (Jason Alexander, Seinfeld) is a private eye and henpecked widower, whose sister-in-law helps him care for his three children, two of whom, Charles & Mambo, share the same body, a bizarre form of Siamese twins, if you will. The other son, Ajax (Dweezil Zappa), isn't quite an idiot savant, but isn't a total idiot, either.

What really carries the show is Duckman's partner, Cornfed (Gregg Berger), a pig whose Joe Friday-like mannerisms make him come across as much more serious as Duckman is about their work. Which isn't that hard.

Peck was able to land a mainstream comics deal for Duckman through Topps' comics division, but the series didn't last long, as Topps discontinued publishing comics after I believe the first issue had been released. The company, better known for chewing gum and sports cards, apparently wasn't getting much traction with comics. Go figure. Peck then took what he'd learned from Klasky-Csupo about artwork and landed a gig working for Sony's animation division between seasons 3 & 4 of Duckman, which would explain why a lot of Adelaide (Sony's cartoon division) programs look so much like Klasky-Csupo product.

Unfortunately, Duckman is in the vaults somewhere, even though the series' 20th anniversary is next year. You'd think it'd turn up somewhere, like on Comedy Central or [adult swim], but no one's biting on it---yet.

Meanwhile, here's the intro:

Rating: B-.

Spooktober: It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

I don't know how it is that Linus Van Pelt can recite a passage from the Gospel of Luke (A Charlie Brown Christmas) and also believe in something like the Great Pumpkin, which I guess is a parody of Santa Claus after a sort.

However, that is the basis for 1966's It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which I believe is the 2nd Peanuts special, and one of the more enduring, as it'll return later this month.

The plot is rather simplistic. With the exception of Linus, who'd rather wait in a pumpkin patch, and is joined by wanna-be girlfriend Sally (Charlie's sister), the gang are out trick-or-treating. Lucy, appropriately, is wearing a witch's mask, given her crabby personality. There are the subplots we all know, like Lucy playing a football prank on Charlie Brown, and Snoopy engaging in a fantasy dogfight with the Red Baron. Poor Charlie still can't buy a break. All he gets in his treat bag are rocks.

Following is an excerpt with Linus & Sally in the pumpkin patch. Sally is so gullible as well as smitten.

ABC has broadcast rights now, and has for the last several years. It's also available on DVD, but more expensive than other Peanuts DVD's.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Daytime Heroes: James Bond, Jr. (1991)

No, he's not the son of 007, but James Bond, Jr. was, in fact, the nephew of Ian Fleming's iconic hero.

In 1991, United Artists recruited the staff at Murakami-Wolf-Swenson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) to produce James Bond, Jr. as a daily series, hoping that the next generation of Bond would resonate with his peers in the audience. Sad to say, he didn't. The series lasted one season, even though it had the usual merchandising tie-ins, such as toys and comic books.

Here's the series premiere, "In The Beginning":

I wanted to like this show, since I'm a Bond fan myself, but I couldn't get into it. Locally, the show aired in the morning before I went off to work, which didn't give me much of a chance.

 Rating: C.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mumbly vs. Breakout Barney (1976)

Here's a Mumbly short that wasn't entirely original.

Breakout Barney (John Stephenson) has escaped prison, bent on heading for Mexico. Enter Mumbly (Don Messick, also the voice of the prison warden), and the rest of this story will remind you of a couple of Droopy shorts from the 40's. Mumbly's boss, the Kojak clone Shnooker (Stephenson doing his Joe Flynn impersonation) is kept to a quick cameo.

How to explain Mumbly turning villain and joining the Really Rottens on Laff-a-Lympics the next year? As we've documented, Hanna-Barbera lost the rights to Dastardly & Muttley on a temporary basis due to a dispute with Heatter-Quigley, so Mumbly, who would be Muttley's exact double but for the blue fur, was conscripted, if ya will. However, the writers have never considered resolving the whole plotline, perhaps in the faint hope that viewers would forget his heroic past. Nuh-uh.

I'd say, do a DTV movie that would close the story of the Dread Baron and have it be revealed that Mumbly'd been working in deep cover all that time (this extended into the 80's), and would eventually turn on the Baron and bring him in. How hard is that?

Rating: A.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Ghost vs. Eclipse Woman (1981)

From Space Stars:

This time, Space Ghost (Gary Owens) battles a 1-shot foe, Eclipse Woman, who steals energy from other planets for her own selfish ends. Teen Force's Kid Comet makes a guest appearance.

I have to take issue with Jace's comment about men being better at space patrol. In this story, Jan's on a date with Kid Comet, and Jace takes advantage with his condescending remarks. However, over on Super Friends, if the writers gave this same line to Zan, his sister Jayna would have plenty to say about that, since she's never far away. Therein lies the difference between our two sets of spacey siblings. They never gave a thought back then to finding Jayna a boyfriend, although at the time Robin could've filled the bill. Meanwhile, the cancellation of Space Stars left Jan & Comet's story unfinished. Oh, what might've been had the show been renewed instead........

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Spooktober: Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

"Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy" was the last film the team did for Universal, back in 1955. The supporting cast includes Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara, & Richard Deacon (Leave It To Beaver).

The boys learn of an expedition to bring an ancient Egyptian mummy to America, and finangle a way to join the expedition. Of course, chaos ensues. Filmentertainment uploaded the trailer, which came from TCM:

Ten years later, Universal would release a compilation film, "The World of Abbott & Costello", but by then, Lou Costello had passed on.

Rating: B.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Game Time: Fun House (1988)

Fun House was one game show for kids that didn't air on Nickelodeon. Just as well, because it didn't last very long.

Two teams of youths competed for cash & prizes, as opposed to most Nick games, which didn't give money away all that often. J. D. Roth, a relative newcomer at the time, was the host. Cable viewers in my area got to see the show on two different channels, but I couldn't remember if it was at the same time, or back-to-back. The local Fox affiiate had the rights here, and it also aired on WPIX in New York.

Since Fun House ended in 1991 after 3 seasons, Roth's kept himself pretty busy, most recently with a lengthy run on the Discovery Kids/NBC Survivor clone, Endurance. He even dabbled in cartoons for a brief bit, as he was the first one cast in the title role in 1996's The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, but was swept out when they overhauled the cast midway through the season.

Here's a sample episode:

I think you can see that Fun House has a little Beat The Clock & Shenanigans in its pedigree.

Rating: B+.

Sunday Funnies: Jumanji (1996)

The fledgling UPN network hit the ground running with a Sunday children's lineup in 1996, but didn't stick with it in the long term.

One of the network's first animated series was Jumanji, which, for intents & purposes, was a reboot of the movie of the same name, which was a hit the previous year, starring Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, & David Alan Grier. In the series, Alan Parrish (Williams' character in the movie, now voiced by Coach's Bill Fagerbakke) is still trapped in the game, and that leaves Judy & Peter Shepherd to venture into the game on a weekly basis to try to bring him home. Duckman creator Everett Peck did the character designs for the series, which was the first for Sony's new animation division, Adelaide Productions.

Jumanji spent two seasons on UPN before moving into a syndicated block distributed by Bohbot Kids Network (BKN). Here's the open & close to refresh your memory:

Unlike most cartoons, the series does have a finite ending, as Judy & Peter finally get Alan back into the real world at the end of season 3. Currently, the series is in Sony's vaults.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Toons After Dark: 3 South (2002)

Once upon a time, MTV took a chance and bought an animated series from WB, which is a little ironic when you think about it, considering that 20 years earlier, MTV was part of the Warner chain, owned at the time by Warner-AMEX cable, which later sold MTV to Viacom, and, well, you know the rest of that story.

3 South was a total bust. Part of the reason might be because it was originally supposed to be coupled on Friday nights with Spider-Man, but the webhead didn't make his MTV debut until 8 months later. Anyway, the show, like Undergrads a year earlier, was about a couple of schlubs in college, but unlike Undergrads, there wasn't much redeeming value.

The stars were a couple of guys named Brian. Brian Dunkleman gave up American Idol for this? Yep, and he hasn't been heard from much since. Y'think maybe someone gave him bad career advice? Fellow comic Brian Posehn worked on another series from Warners, Mission Hill, and a few other cartoons, so he at least had some experience.

I gave this about 5 minutes one night. Which would be about 3 minutes too many. It was that bad. Here's a portion of the series opener. The Flaming Lips performed the theme song.

Seems like the character designs could've easily come from any number of independent comic strips, such as Gary Larsen's seminal The Far Side. Which, when you think about it, would've been a better choice for a cartoon......

Rating: D.

Spooktober: Archie tries to solve "The Curse of the Mummy" (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 1999)

During the month of October----or, as we call it around here, Spooktober, we'll be posting a number of episodes of Archie's Weird Mysteries, the last series to feature Archie Andrews and company that was produced by DIC in 1999.

Today, it's "Curse of the Mummy".

No rating, as I don't recall seeing this one. I only saw a few select episodes and missed most of the run.