Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Animated World of DC Comics: The Marvel Family (& Friends) vs. Star Master (1981)

In the wrestling business, they say that an up & coming wrestler will "get the rub" from working with veteran performers in a main event.

Filmation & NBC, realizing that The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! was dying, had to play a trump card, and have three of the kids from Hero High team with Captain Marvel to save Captain Marvel, Jr. & Mary Marvel from the evil Star Master. Unfortunately, while Glorious Gal, Weatherman, & Rex Ruthless "got the rub" from teaming with the Marvels, it didn't help them in the least bit. The series was cancelled after 1 season, and Hero High and its student body became a distant memory.

Here's "Star Master & the Solar Mirror", written by Tom Ruegger, who'd make his fame working at Hanna-Barbera & Warner Bros. later on.

I don't know whose idea it was to give Uncle Dudley (Uncle Marvel) a WC Fields-esque vocal pattern, but I'd have preferred the "Mentor" version from the live-action show.

Rating: B.

Tooniversaries in 2014

Rather than wait until tomorrow to post this, I thought I'd close out 2013 by acknowledging the tooniversaries pending in 2014.

50 years: Linus the Lionhearted, Magilla Gorilla, Underdog, Peter Potamus, Go Go Gophers, Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, Jonny Quest, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

45 years: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Hot Wheels, Skyhawks, Cattanooga Cats, The Hardy Boys (Filmation), Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Frosty the Snowman.

40 years: Valley of the Dinosaurs, These Are The Days, Hong Kong Phooey, Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch, Devlin (the start of Hanna-Barbera's "rainbow logo" period). Also, the debuts of live-action shows such as Run, Joe, Run, Korg: 70,000 B. C., & Shazam!.

35 years: Spider-Woman, Casper & the Angels, The Super Globetrotters, Fred & Barney Meet The Thing, The New Shmoo, Plastic Man Super Comedy Adventure Show, and, lest we forget, the debuts of Scrappy-Doo and Hanna-Barbera's "swirling star" logo.

30 years: Kenner's Super Powers line prompts a change in the Super Friends franchise, as the series is given the sub-title, The Legendary Super Powers Show. After 12 seasons on CBS, Fat Albert moves into first-run syndication. Significant debuts include Pole Position.

25 years: Super Mario Brothers Super Show

20 years: Spider-Man (Fox series), Brothers Grunt.

15 years: Digimon: Digital Monsters, Spider-Man Unlimited, Avengers: United We Stand.

If there's anything I've missed, don't hesitate to let me know.

Monday, December 30, 2013

You Know the Voice: Donald Duck's original voice (1954)

Clarence Charles "Ducky" Nash has long been regarded as the definitive, if not original, voice of Donald Duck, a fact that in 1954 wasn't known to much of the general public. A guest appearance on What's My Line? took care of that. Seems Bennett Cerf's line of questioning got a little skewed early on, treating Nash as if he were just another ordinary 9-to-5 guy.

We'll take a longer look at What's My Line? over at The Land of Whatever down the line, but right now, let's get to know Mr. Nash, shall we?

Toon Legends: Popeye in Let's Celebrake (1937)

Here's a rare instance of Popeye and Bluto actually getting along!

Bluto (Jackson Beck) & Popeye (Jack Mercer) agree to let Olive's grandmother accompany Olive (Mae Questel) & the guys to a New Year's Eve party. Since Bluto occupies most of Olive's attention, Popeye decides to let it slide this time, and treat Grandma Oyl (Questel again) to some spinach, and, well, you can guess the rest........

Rating: A.

Toons After Dark: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

12 years after his television debut, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer returned, this time in Rudolph's Shiny New Year,  which aired on ABC instead of NBC or CBS, the latter of which has been home to Rudolph's original special for the last several years.

After returning to the North Pole following a successful Christmas Eve tour of the globe, Rudolph is asked by Father Time to locate the missing Baby New Year. Apparently, that red beak qualifies Rudolph (Billie Richards) as a detective of some kind. Anyway, aside from the omnipresent Paul Frees, long-time Hanna-Barbera icon Don Messick, Morey Amsterdam (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show), & Frank Gorshin round out the cast, with narrator Red Skelton.

Here's a trailer from Warnervod:

It would only take three more years for Rudolph's next adventure. Meh.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

On The Air: Crash & Bernstein (2012)

Nearly 15 years after Nickelodeon foisted Cousin Skeeter on an unsuspecting world, Disney plumbs the mine of stupid ideas for Crash & Bernstein. They'd have been better off doing a new show starring the Muppets.

Crash is the puppet in the titular duo, getting his human pal in trouble. Like Skeeter, everyone treats Crash like he's just another human, which allows for some serious suspension of disbelief. The fact that it's in its 2nd season tells you that there are enough people willing to play along with the joke to keep the show going. The problem, though, is that Crash has all the redeeming value of an expired traffic ticket. It is that lame.

DisneyXDUK uploaded the open:

I'm waiting for the inevitable crossover with the Muppets, especially since they have a movie coming in March. Then we'll see how Crash compares to Kermit and friends.

Rating: C.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Daytime Heroes: V. R. Troopers (1994)

One year had passed since Haim Saban had introduced American audiences to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Emboldened by the series' success in the ratings, Saban added a second hybrid of Japanese footage mixed with American actors, this time for syndication.

V. R. Troopers lasted two seasons, and would've gone longer had Saban not used up all the source material so quickly. That's just being kind. I tried to watch this show, but couldn't get into it any more than I could with the Rangers. Another reason the series didn't last too long was where it was placed on the schedule in most markets----in the morning, so's to avoid a conflict with the Power Rangers, which aired up to 6 days a week on Fox, including weekday afternoons, as part of a formidible combination with Batman: The Animated Series. In my area, the Fox affiliate aired Troopers at 7 am (ET), the spot filled by the series' replacement, Masked Rider, after Troopers was cancelled.

If you were into virtual reality back in the early-to-mid 90's, then this was the show for you. Standard action fare of the period, but overwhelmed by special effects and underwhelming writing.

Here's the open:

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Family Toons: The Why Why Family (1996)

In the 80's, producer-composer Haim Saban began importing series from other countries into the US, usually for Nickelodeon (i.e. The Little Prince). After Mighty Morphin Power Rangers took off on Fox in the early 90's, Saban then began to dabble in domestic syndication. Unfortunately, the results weren't quite as good. Two action series in the Power Rangers vein, Masked Rider & V. R. Troopers, were duds, and the cartoons that Saban imported weren't exactly world beaters, either, although Samurai Pizza Cats did develop a cult following. Eagle Riders was simply a new incarnation of Japan's Gatchaman, which of course is better known here as Battle of the Planets, but it didn't take off.

The Why Why Family was imported from France, unlike the others, which used Japanese material. The series, co-produced with the French studio, CineGroupe, initially debuted in its native land in 1996, then was brought to America 2 years later in syndication, not on Fox as Wikipedia and other sources suggest. I should know. I cannot recall, however, if it was the NBC or Fox affiliate in my area that had the rights to the series in its lone season here. On the other hand, I never saw the show, so there's not to be a rating.

Silverstar, over at Twinsanity!, offers a more detailed review of the series. I'm just going to leave you with the show open while we all wonder what might've been had Why Why Family actually been sold to Fox. Seems to me that if it wasn't on Fox, Saban wasn't getting anywhere...........

Saturtainment: Big Brother Jake (1990)

It was perhaps the most successful original series the Family Channel produced before it was sold to Fox. However, you'd be hard pressed to find it anywhere today, either on cable or video.

Fitness expert Jake Steinfeld top-lined Big Brother Jake, which lasted 4 seasons on the network (1990-4). The concept will remind some of a failed ABC series from a few years prior, the Barney Miller spin-off, Fish, which had the title character, a retired cop (Abe Vigoda), and his wife converting their home into a group home. The diff here is that Jake, who was raised in foster care, went on to become a stuntman, and is returning home to Brooklyn and the foster home to help oversee a new generation of kids to show them there is a way to succeed out of a hardscrabble childhood.

The only other "name" in the cast is Barbara Meek, whose only other notable gig was on Archie Bunker's Place at the end of its run. Unfortunately, none of the kids on this show went on to higher profile gigs that I know of, and, as I said earlier, the series now languishes in the vaults somewhere. I'm not sure who'd have the rights to the show, since Family Channel ownership has changed twice since the series ended nearly 20 years ago.

Edit, 2/16/19: Had to replace the video. Here's a commercial to promote the show.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Getting Schooled: Romper Room (1953)

I don't think there's anyone in my generation who hasn't seen Romper Room, a daily series for pre-schoolers that was on the air for an astonishing 41 seasons (1953-94).

Romper Room started as one of television's 1st franchises, in that instead of being syndicated, producer Bert Claster would allow each station in the network to have its own hostess (Claster's wife & daughter served as hostesses in one Eastern city, one right after the other). This lasted until 1981, when Claster decided to outright syndicate the series under the title Romper Room & Friends, which would remain the show's title & format until it was finally ended in 1994.

It wasn't without controversy, though. In 1968, Peggy Charren's watchdog group, Action for Children's Television, targeted the series for using its hostess to sell toys within the framework of the show. Ironically, Hasbro bought the series the following year, and would later use the Romper Room name as a brand of pre-school toys as a division of its Playskool brand, which was part of Hasbro's acquisition of board game giant Milton Bradley.

When the series shifted from franchising to syndication in 1981, the producers settled on one national hostess, Molly McCluskey, whose 13 year run was, I think, the longest of any of the show's hostesses, regional or national. The show was taped in New York and broadcast on WOR. If memory serves, one of the franchises was in Albany, as I seem to recall seeing Romper Room in the pre-cable era. Unfortunately, there's no record on Wikipedia's Romper Room page, which proves that they still have some work to do.

WOR had to shift the show around during its run, largely to avoid, out of respect, conflicts with the still-on-the-air Sesame Street. I think around the time this episode aired in the 80's, Romper Room & Friends had settled in at 8 am (ET) in New York.

So, let's join Miss Molly for Romper Room & Friends:

Rating: A.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A shallow imitation: The New Captain Kangaroo (1997)

13 years after Captain Kangaroo had said good-bye to CBS, Haim Saban got his hands on a license to produce an all-new version of the iconic series.

Unfortunately, The New Captain Kangaroo lasted just 1 season, leading to a spin-off series for one of the franchise's most beloved characters, Mr. Moose, which I believe also bombed.

What Saban did right was this. The familiar house setting had once more been christened, "The Treasure House", after it'd been renamed "The Captain's Place" late in the CBS run. Also, the Captain's jacket color reverted to blue from the red he had worn for most of the color run of the series.

However, as often has happened in years since with primetime shows, viewers didn't take too kindly to actor John McDonough as the new Captain. To older viewers, there's only one Captain Kangaroo---Bob Keeshan, who'd essayed the part for nearly 30 years (1955-84) for CBS, and had parlayed that gig into two separate Saturday morning gigs---Mr. Mayor, which lasted one season in the 60's, and as the host of CBS Storybreak, an anthology series that was the network's answer to ABC's long-running Weekend Special, in the 80's.

Another change, as you'll soon see, was ascribing an episode title to each broadcast, like every other children's show. What that said to the viewers was that this Captain wasn't about informing and educating, but rather, it would be short of a sitcom for children, with the obligatory moral lessons sewn right in.

In my area, the show aired in mid-morning, so I never got to see it. Also, it retained the half-hour format that the original series had ended with 13 years earlier, which had rankled Keeshan. The original Captain had been invited to be a guest on the new show, ostensibly to pass the torch, but reportedly, he'd seen some samples and opted to decline. That failed olive branch, then, was what finally killed the show.

Here's the episode, "Turn About is Fair Play". Joby, a kangaroo, is a new character that Saban's staff created for this incarnation.....

No rating.

Countdown to Christmas: The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)

This entry was originally published on my other blog, The Land of Whatever, on December 19, 2012:

Now, here's a holiday treat long forgotten, as it hasn't aired on cable in years.

DePatie-Freleng produced The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas for NBC in 1973, and assembled a star-laden cast for the 30-minute special. Tommy Smothers is the bear in the title, as Ted E. Bear, whose curiosity about Christmas has him postponing his hibernation for a while. The voice cast also includes Arte Johnson (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), Barbara Feldon (ex-Get Smart), and, as the narrator, in his first gig for DFE, radio & cartoon icon Casey Kasem.

Edit, 6/25/19: Had to change the video. Here's the trailer:

Rating: A.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

Rankin-Bass scored another "animagic" hit in 1968 with their adaptation of The Little Drummer Boy. The Christmas classic has been recorded by artists as diverse as Jose Feliciano, Bob Seger, Johnny Cash, and the Harry Simeone Chorale, whose version plays on the soundtrack.

Ted Eccles (The Herculoids, Banana Splits) is the title character, a wayfaring shepherd boy named Aaron who gets a very important life lesson as he delivers a gift to the Baby Jesus. Jose Ferrer & Paul Frees (natch) co-star, with acclaimed actress Greer Garson narrating. 8 years later, NBC & the American Gas Company commissioned a sequel, and, so, today, the two are often shown together on ABC Family, which currently holds the cable rights.

Rating: B.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Vegetable Soup (1975)

In the 70's, one of PBS' most popular shows was Julia Child's legendary French Chef, famously parodied by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live. But while Julia was teaching parents how to cook, PBS found a means for kids to learn, too. All they needed was a sentient..........spoon.

I kid you not. Woody the Spoon only appeared in 13 episodes of Vegetable Soup, which ran for 50 episodes total in just over 3 years on the air (1975-8), though reruns would continue well into the 80's, as memory serves. Overall, Vegetable Soup was a sort of magazine show for kids that taught them about typical social issues of the day that are still relevant today. Actors James Earl Jones and Daniel Stern, the latter years before "Home Alone" and The Wonder Years made him a household name, contributed to the series, as did veteran cartoon producer Al Brodax, formerly of King Features' television arm, as this was, to my knowledge, his last series. Veteran comics artist Joe Staton worked as an editor on the show.

As for Woody, singer-actress Bette Midler was the one putting words in Woody's mouth, which was along the same line of Joan Rivers, Zero Mostel, & Gene Wilder working on Letterman for the original Electric Company. Here, Woody offers up a recipe for Japanese rice:

I should note that the series aired on some NBC affiliates as a Sunday series, but that wasn't the case in my home area. The local NBC affiliate opted against it, since they had at the time a 1-2 punch of wrestling and bowling on Sunday mornings, following their public affairs programming.

Rating: B-.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Come & Get Your Love (1974)

From The Midnight Special:

Redbone was a Native American rock group that had a brief cup of coffee on the Hot 100 in the mid-70's, with their biggest hit being "Come & Get Your Love". Being part Native American myself, this resonated with me.

Countdown to Christmas: Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Next year, Frosty the Snowman, the original animated special, turns 45. As we've noted, there've been two follow-up specials, each distinctly different from each other, over the years, and there's also an extended length team-up with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which we'll eventually get to.

Rating: B.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

You Know The Voice: Mel Blanc (1951)

After years of being a member of Jack Benny's radio (and later television) repertory company, you wondered if Mel Blanc would ever land a headlining gig of his own, away from the Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies that made him an icon.

Well, it never quite materialized on television. Instead, the closest Mel got was a 35 minute promotional film he made for Capitol Records in 1951. "Wanna Buy a Record?" casts Blanc as a generic record store owner who's trying to make ends meet, then ends up taking a customer (musician Billy May) to Capitol for a primer on how records are made, leading to cameos by Capitol artists (at the time) Les Paul & Mary Ford and Dean Martin.

"Wanna Buy a Record?" was never released to the public until now, as it was uploaded to YouTube by Allison Martino:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas with Paul Winchell (1953)

Before Walt Disney took over the 7 pm (ET) hour on NBC, leading off the network's Sunday night lineup, before Bullwinkle occupied that space, there was ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who had the slot for four seasons before moving to Saturday mornings in 1954.

Paul's self-titled series originally went by the name, The Spiegel Show, for its original sponsor, but then Winchell got star billing during season 2. In season 4, the series was sponsored by Procter & Gamble, and, the last I checked, they still make Camay soap, although it isn't as promoted as much as it used to. In fact, P & G has sold off a lot of familiar brands, including Spic & Span, Duncan Hines, & Pringles, in recent years.

I'm digressing. Anyway, for seasons 5 & 6, Winchell moved into a morning berth, with Tootsie Roll taking over as the sponsor. This Christmas episode plays like a sitcom, although the audience is, in fact, live. Friday marks the 60th anniversary of this broadcast, which has Paul as an emergency babysitter for a neighbor's daughter, who then spins a variation on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, built around Paul's dreams of Christmases past & future, with hilarious results.

This is part of a Holiday Classics DVD compilation set released by Mill Creek in 2011, and one of the few to actually include commercials.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Does anyone remember Willie Whistle? (1962)

Willie Whistle was the most incomprehensible kids show host in known history. Period. Still, he was a Boston institution on and off for the better part of 20+ years.

Willie was on and off beginning in 1962, and his last run came around 1983-4 on WSBK. The higher-than-high-pitched, ultra squeaky voice was hard to understand, and of course difficult to duplicate unless you overdosed on helium trying to learn how to mimic him, which I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy. If he made you laugh, he did his job. If he caused discomfort, well, I guess we know who Stephen King had in mind when he created the malevolent Pennywise for his novel, It, which later became a TV miniseries for ABC.

Boston based artist Fred Grandinetti appeared on the show in 1984, and uploaded this clip to YouTube:

It's just too bad Bozo wasn't on TV-38. At least you could relate to him.

Rating: C.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Saturtainment: Ned's Newt (1997)

Fox's Saturday morning lineup in the 90's was filled with some odd, bizarre concepts, some of which actually worked, while others didn't.

One such case falling into the latter category was Ned's Newt, a collaboration between Canada's Nelvana and a German studio which lasted one season (1997-8). The Newt in the title appears to be a prototypical "imaginary friend" that only Ned can see. I never saw the show, so I can only speculate, thus no rating.

To give you an idea, here's the opener:

Edit, 8/8/22: In reality, Ned's Newt was a mid-season replacement. The newt was acquired at a pet store, and, after consuming some pet food, becomes a shapeshifter, voiced by Harland Williams. The series lasted three seasons total, but only the 1st season aired on Fox.

Countdown to Christmas: The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

I must correct myself from the last piece I wrote. It turns out that Jack Frost, which we reviewed last time, was in fact the last Rankin-Bass special sold to NBC. The Stingiest Man in Town, which is our next subject, came before Frost by exactly one year.

Stingiest is a remake of an Alcoa Theatre live-action production from 1956, and both versions are loosely based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which has been adapted so often, the rights may as well be in the public domain. Seriously. Tom Bosley (Happy Days) is the narrator, as B. A. H. Humbug, so named for Ebenezer Scrooge's pet phrase. Stingiest contains more songs than the average Rankin-Bass production, which might explain why it was replaced by Jack Frost the next year----it wasn't a ratings hit.

Walter Matthau, in a rare television performance, is Ebenezer Scrooge. Robert Morse & Paul Frees, who'd work together again the following year on Frost, are also in the cast for this one. Unfortunately, the complete special isn't available on YouTube, so we can only offer this opening sample.

The fact that this aired on a Saturday night might also contibute to the lack of ratings and subsequent cable airings. Rating: C.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Jack Frost (1979)

Rankin-Bass & NBC took a chance in December 1979. The fact that Jack Frost has aired on cable the last several years suggests that gamble paid off.

Jack Frost tells the story of how the winter sprite (Robert Morse, ex-That's Life) became human for a time, largely because he fell in love with a young woman. Of course, there are certain trials & tribulations for Jack to go through, including saving the village of January Junction from a tyrant (Paul Frees, of course). The cast also includes Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop, Ghost Busters), Debra Clinger (ex-Krofft Supershow, American Girls), and a name from the Golden Age of Television, Dave Garroway (ex-The Today Show), in what I think was his only voice-over credit in animation. The special gives narrator Buddy Hackett an avenue to demonstrate his singing ability, which is pretty fair, admittedly, especially in covering Al Jolson's "Me & My Shadow".

Jack Frost was the first special Rankin-Bass had sold to NBC in some time, as I'm not sure if the Peacock Network had actually acquired the sequel to Little Drummer Boy. NBC would get at least one more R-B special, The Stingiest Man in Town, the producers' take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with Tom Bosley (Happy Days) & Walter Matthau, a few years later.

Right now, let's scope a little musical action from Pardon Me Pete (Hackett):

Rating: B.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976)

Frosty The Snowman (Jackie Vernon) returns, 7 years after the original special, in Frosty's Winter Wonderland, which bowed on ABC, instead of CBS, in 1976. This might be because Rankin-Bass were producing most of their holiday specials for ABC, and it had been 2 years since the last one they sold to CBS ('Twas The Night Before Christmas).

This time, the classic carol, "Winter Wonderland", is intertwined with the Frosty mythos. Some kids create a snow-woman for lonely Frosty, which raises the ire of Jack Frost (Paul Frees). A gift of love brings Crystal (Shelley Winters) to life, and, inevitably, she & Frosty are married by Parson Brown (Dennis Day), the minister prominent in "Wonderland", or, actually, a snow-simulcrum of the preacher. Yeah, it does get silly.

Andy Griffith narrated this tale, but a few years later, Frosty would return to CBS in an all-new special that ret-conned Crystal out of existence. Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video produced Frosty Returns, with John Goodman taking over as Frosty, and Jonathan Winters as the narrator. Too many continuity errors, but you'll see that, I'm sure, when we get to Returns.

Now, let's visit Frosty's Winter Wonderland:

A younger, kinder Jack Frost would get his own special a few years after this, airing on NBC, with Robert Morse in the title role. We'll get to him, too.

Rating: None. I didn't see enough of this to merit a rating.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday School: Science Court (1997)

At the tail end of ABC's One Saturday Morning block for 3 seasons (1997-2000) was Science Court, otherwise known by the alternate title used in seasons 2 & 3, Squigglevision, after the animation style employed by producer Tom Snyder (no, not the same guy who had a late night talk show in the 70's). I don't know why they had to mess with what was a successful formula, one that netted the series an award.

Anyway, this was a different kind of courtroom show, one where education, not incarceration, was the goal. Comic Paula Poundstone voiced one of the judges. H. Jon Benjamin made one of his first toon jobs here, and currently has a pair of series of his own (Archer & Bob's Burgers) on the air.

I will openly state that I barely watched this show at all, not enough to offer a fair rating. In the meantime, let's scope the episode, "Seasons":

Friday, December 6, 2013

Countdown to Christmas:The Night Before Christmas (1968)

Six years before Rankin-Bass adapted Clement Moore's A Visit From St. Nicholas as the musical 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, there was another animated special, this one not only based on the poem, but on the author's life as well.

The Night Before Christmas had some live action bumpers with TV legend Art Linkletter, but those bits have been lost to the mists of time. And, so, we have just the cartoon.

Edit: 11/30/15: Courtesy of Dailymotion, we can now present this all in one.

No rating.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Adventures of Super Mario Brothers 3 (1990)

Although The Super Mario Brothers Super Show was cancelled after 1 season, Mario & Luigi didn't go away. They simply changed channels.

NBC acquired DIC's next Super Mario Brothers series, the Adventures of Super Mario Brothers 3, which was coupled with another DIC-Nintendo offering, Captain N: The Game Master, which we'll eventually get to. However, DIC also hired two new actors to play Mario & Luigi, with a relative unknown, Walker Boone, stepping in for Capt. Lou Albano as Mario and Tony Rosato (ex-Saturday Night Live) for Danny Wells as Luigi. This time, there were no live action skits, which might help explain away Albano & Wells' departure.

Unfortunately, this series also lasted just 1 season, replaced by the next and last TV adaptation, Super Mario World, the very next year. I didn't follow the series, so I will not offer a rating. Following is a sample episode:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Hillbilly Bears (late 90's-early 00's)

Back when Cartoon Network actually gave a rat's butt about the earlier toons that helped build the channel, they created a series of interstitals, known as "Shorties" that revisited some of those characters. Sad to say, some of these bits left a lot to be desired.

In the case of The Hillbilly Bears, however, CN actually had a plot that fit them just fine. Not exactly sure what year "Miss Understanding" was produced, but as you'll see, it's a parody of a certain daytime talk show. The animation isn't quite a match, but ya can't have everything........

To be honest with ya, pilgrims, I'd rather they redid "Do The Bear". Rating: C.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)

Rankin-Bass' 1st Christmas special for CBS was Frosty The Snowman in 1969. 5 years later, the studio supplied CBS with another classic, and like Frosty, it was done in traditional animation.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas is, of course, a loose adaptation of Clement Moore's famous poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, and is told from two points of view, those of a human family, and the mice who live within the walls of the house. The voices include Joel Grey ("Cabaret", better known today as the father of Dancing With The Stars champ Jennifer Grey) and "Lonesome" George Gobel, whom most folks might remember from many appearances on Hollywood Squares and The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era.

Edit, 11/29/21: Unfortunately, WB put a copyright claim on the show, so the complete video is no longer available. In its place is a picture of the VHS box:\

I guess they decided to have some fun with Moore's verse, hence the use of the mice. Look for this to air a few times during December on ABC Family, which plays most of the Rankin-Bass specials they own for the Christmas season multiple times, if only because they don't have enough depth in their Christmas library.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion (1955)

After playing Tarzan & Flash Gordon on the big screen, you'd think Buster Crabbe would find something other than another action hero to play. Nuh-uh.

In 1955, Crabbe and his son, Cullen, went to Morocco to shoot Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion. If I'm not mistaken, this may be Cullen's only TV gig. The series was a midseason replacement, debuting in February 1955 on NBC, and sponsored by Lionel Trains and Lego, which, at the time, was a subsidiary of Samsonite. Today, as we all know, Lego has become a global brand unto itself. I digress.

Captain Gallant shifted locations to Italy in season 2, filming from a studio owned by Sophia Loren. Not sure if she ever appeared on the show, though, although that would be a bonus, wouldn't it now?

Following is the Christmas episode, "The Boy Who Found Christmas".

Father & son work well together, of course, but that aside, this is a bit of a snoozer.

Rating: C.

Countdown to Christmas: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1974)

It all started with a letter written by Virginia O'Hanlon to the New York Sun many years ago, and the editors' subsequent response became the stuff of literary legend.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus premiered on ABC in December 1974. As was the custom of the time, the special was promoted as heavily as possible during the network's Saturday morning programming, as well as the rest of the schedule. David L. Wolper, better known for producing a series of specials for oceanographer Jacques Cousteau (ABC) & National Geographic (CBS), as well as the occasional TV-movie, was slowly moving toward regular primetime programming, and this was the first, perhaps only, animated special to come from Wolper's production company. Veteran animation producer Lee Mendelson (Peanuts specials) was brought on board to co-produce & direct, and the general look reflects the Mendelson touch.

Jim Backus (ex-Gilligan's Island) narrates, with the title song performed by Jimmy Osmond. Yes, Virginia hasn't seen the light of day in years, but deserves to be back on the air.

Edit, 11/29/21: The video has been deleted. In its place is a title card:


Rating: B.