Monday, December 29, 2014

Toon Legends: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

Christmas is over, but we still have New Year's Eve & Day later this week, and a pair of New Year's specials are on the ABC docket tonight.

The 2nd half of the double-bill is an encore of 1976's Rudolph's Shiny New Year, a sequel to the 1964 classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This time, Rudolph (Billie Richards) returns from his annual Christmas Eve tour with Santa Claus (Paul Frees), only to be called on by Father Time (Red Skelton) to locate Happy, the baby New Year, who has fled to the Archipelago of Lost Years, unhappy because of his oversized ears (think "Dumbo"). Aeon the Terrible, a vulture, wants to keep Happy from succeeding Father Time so that the current year can continue uninterrupted, but you can't stop the normal nature of things, can you?

Morey Amsterdam and Frank Gorshin are also in the cast for this one, which moves back to ABC this year after airing on ABC Family the last several years.

For a sequel, there is a bit of a continuity error, and it has to do with Rudolph's antlers. Unless they regenerated after breaking, they should be bigger than they appear in the show. Also, around the same time this aired, DC Comics had released an oversize Rudolph comic book, which now is a prized collector's item.

Rating: B-.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Looney TV: Portrait of The Artist as a Young Bunny (1980)

I think this might have been one of the first times this next item has aired on Boomerang.

As part of the cable network's all-day Looney Tunes Christmas Day marathon, a made-for-TV short, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bunny", aired in primetime, and probably during other day parts, I don't know. Originally produced for the CBS primetime special, Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over, "Portrait" uses the title card and cue from the network's Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show, which makes me think this might've eventually been used on the Saturday show as well.

Somehow, Elmer Fudd with corks in his guns really doesn't have the same impact.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: Allen Jenkins (1954)

Ask anyone about actor Allen Jenkins, and you're likely to get two distinctive answers:

1. He was a prolific character actor on radio, television, and in movies during the 40's & 50's, or.....

2. He was the voice of Officer Dibble on Top Cat, likely his only cartoon credit of note (1961).

Allen's in the spotlight today in a post that, were it not for my home computer being down again, would've been our last Countdown to Christmas entry. Jenkins guest-starred on The Red Skelton Show's annual Christmas show in 1954, an adaptation of O. Henry's The Cop & The Anthem. In it, Jenkins plays a hobo who's trying to convince Freddie the Freeloader (Skelton) to move to Florida for the winter. Good luck with that.

A lesser known actress, Sara Berner, who went uncredited on a number of shorts for Warner Bros. in the 40's, is also among the guests.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Literary Toons: The Puppy's Further/Great Adventures (1982)

In 1978, Joe Ruby & Ken Spears adapted a little known children's book, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, for the ABC Weekend Special. The episode proved so popular, with its annual replays, that ABC commissioned an ongoing Puppy series.

First, the adventures of Petey the Puppy were coupled with Scooby & Scrappy Doo in a hour-long block, which didn't really make much sense. The following year, Petey and pals were spun off into their own half-hour standalone series, under the title, The Puppy's Further Adventures, rechristened The Puppy's Great Adventures when the series went into all-rerun mode, first on ABC, then CBS.

Petey (voiced by Billy Jacoby here) doubles as narrator, and there was some sparks between Petey and Dolly (Nancy McKeon, The Facts of Life), too.

Following is a sample episode:

Too bad Cartoon Network is sitting on this one right now.

Rating: A.

Merry Christmas, everyone. We're off until Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Tiny Tree (1975)

I previously posted this next item over at The Land of Whatever a ways back, but it belongs here, too.

The Tiny Tree, produced by DePatie-Freleng for CBS, bowed in 1975. Music by Roberta Flack, and Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) headed the voice cast as Squire Badger. There's no rating for this one. Just enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

On The Air: Sonic Boom (2014)

Sonic the Hedgehog returns in all new adventures, and on a new home, with the launch of Sonic Boom on Cartoon Network.

Sadly, it seems the bloom's already off the rose for this CGI entry, as CN has slotted it in a double-play block on Sunday mornings at 6 am (ET), hardly a prime spot. The fact that it is, at its core, an action cartoon, moreso than a comedy-adventure show, works against it. Still, the CGI animation works better for Sonic, whose roots, of course, are in video games, than the Japanese anime of his last series, Sonic X.

Some new characters have been added, including Stix, a badger, but those who remember the first series from the 90's will be slightly disappointed to see that Sonic's old sweetie, Princess Sally Acorn, is not around. In fact, there are two schools of thought, if you go by message boards, in regards to Sally, as it seems the mallet-wielding Amy Rose is Sonic's current love. I've been out of the loop with Sonic for so long, so you'll excuse my ignorance.

Anyway, let's scope out this sample clip:

Dr. Eggman, nee Robotnik, hasn't changed. For a guy with a genius IQ, he's still a loser.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On The Air: Transformers Rescue Bots (2011)

The Hub (now Discovery Family) has kept the Transformers cartoon franchise alive here in the US, with one of the more recent entries being Transformers Rescue Bots. Of course, it is meant to drive sales of the long running toy franchise, especially now that FCC regulations regarding such things have long since been relaxed.

You won't see any of the familiar characters from the main franchise, as Rescue Bots is a sort of beginner level series, aimed at the younger kiddo's. Here's the intro:

Meh. Rating: B.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: A Pink Christmas (1978)

Part of the deal that brought the Pink Panther to ABC after 9 seasons on NBC was that ABC would offer something that NBC hadn't considered----a primetime special.

A Pink Christmas unspooled in 1978. I will tell you now that there won't be a rating, because I didn't see it when it first aired. It is also a loose adaptation of O. Henry's The Cop & The Anthem, most famously adapted years earlier by Red Skelton.

I'm not sure if this has aired on cable in recent years. You'd think it would.

Looney TV: Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd for Kool-Aid (1960?)

As we've documented, General Foods, now part of Kraft, had contracted with Warner Bros. during the 60's to use some of the Looney Tunes crew for commercial endorsements. Now, here's one that probably hasn't seen the light of day in over 50 years.

Here, Elmer Fudd is selling pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, which is new at the time, but Bugs Bunny is trying to cut in. In later years, Bugs would also pitch Tang and some of the Post cereals (Post now is owned by a German company.).

What makes this more of a collector's item is that this was directed by Fred "Tex" Avery, who hadn't worked with WB in several years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Code Lyoko (2003)

If you've wondered why the French studio, Moonscoop, has been very busy obtaining American properties such as Sabrina, chalk it up to the success they enjoyed after importing Code Lyoko to the US.

Code Lyoko debuted in 2003, airing in the US on Cartoon Network as part of its Miguzi block. In all, the series ran for 4 years, with a finite ending that not many of us have seen here.

The story is built around 5 teenagers, later 6, who fight in the virtual world of Lyoko against a rogue artificial intelligence, XANA, which has gained control of Lyoko. For a good part of the run, one of the kids, Aleita, was in Lyoko full-time, but eventually returned to the real world. In the last episodes I remember seeing, I think they were trying to build a relationship between Aleita & Jeremy, the team leader.

Today, Kabillion has the rights to the series, but on some cable systems is only available as a On Demand service.

Following is a sample episode:

Rating: B+.

Animated World of DC Comics: Chase Me (2003)

You've heard about this one, I'm sure.

Batman pursues Catwoman through the streets of Gotham City in "Chase Me", a featurette which accompanied the DTV, "Mystery of the Batwoman". There is no dialogue. Instead, there is a jazz soundtrack composed by Lolita Ritmanis.

The only downside is that this was based on the 1997 revamps of the Bat-toon cast when Batman shifted from Fox to WB. Catwoman looked much better in her grey costume (1992-7), in this writer's opinion.  If she wanted to steal something significant from Batman, she should've settled on the one thing that matters. His heart.

Rating: A-.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Toon Legends: The Mouse of Tomorrow (1942)

Mighty Mouse wasn't always using that name. Initially, Paul Terry had christened him Super Mouse, as he was always meant to be a parody of Superman. However, in 1944, after 2 years of shorts, Terry learned that Timely Comics (now Marvel) already had a copyrighted character named Super Mouse, forcing the name change. Subsequent reissues of the 1942-4 shorts included new title cards and dubbed over narration.

Here, then, is the short that started it all. "The Mouse of Tomorrow". Castle Films got their hands on a negative of the original, and it is a collector's dream. The narrator, it appears, would be radio (and later TV) announcer Ken Roberts:

Primitive, yes, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Rating: B-.

Toonfomercial: Bugs Bunny for Holiday Inn (1989)

Holiday Inn hotels sought to help honor Bugs Bunny on his 50th anniversary, so they asked Warner Bros. if they could use Bugs and any other Looney Tunes character for a promotion.

The end result is the following commercial, in which Elmer Fudd is aided by a Holiday Inn doorman (John Larroquette, Night Court), but you know how this ends the minute Elmer appears.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On The Air: NFL Rush Zone (2012)

While the NFL is pushing its "Play 60" initiative for youngsters, they also sanctioned an animated series currently airing on Nicktoons.

NFL Rush Zone is in its 3rd season, airing on Sunday mornings, with replays during the week, including Saturday mornings, and for those who want action and adventure, well, where've you been?

It all started with a young boy named Ish in season 1, tasked to protect the shards of some sort of core device. The shards are hidden in all 31 NFL stadiums (32 teams, I know, but remember, the Jets & Giants share a stadium). Ish was given his own team of Guardians, and, subsequently, each succeeding season has had subtitles added. For example, Season 3 is subtitled, Guardians Unleashed. NFL players & coaches, including Jets coach Rex Ryan, Houston Texans star JJ Watt, and the ever-present Peyton Manning, have contributed to the series.

Why Nickelodeon isn't repurposing Rush Zone on Nick itself, I don't know. Their mistake, as usual.

Right now, here's the intro for the current season:

There's also been a comic book version of the series, and this year, Panini included the Rusherz as part of their NFL Sticker Collection, which is available at Target, Dollar Tree, and some hobby shops.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Toons After Dark: Home Movies (1999)

UPN's loss ultimately became a boon for [adult swim].

Home Movies lasted barely more than a month on UPN in 1999, as the network had little patience when it came to ratings, especially for animated series. 2 years later, Cartoon Network acquired the show, and ran the complete 1st season on [adult swim]. The ratings got better, and 3 additional seasons were produced between 2001-4.

Whereas the first season was produced using the Squigglevision process created for Comedy Central's Dr. Katz, Occupational Therapist, and the ABC Saturday morning series, Science Court, the series changed animation houses for season 2 and switched to flash animation, which improved the quality of the show. Comic Paula Poundstone (Science Court) didn't return when production resumed for season 1, and the only other familiar name in the cast has become famous in his own right, H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob's Burgers).

Here's a sample episode:

Rating: C.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Police Academy (1988)

The success of the Police Academy movie series gave rise to an animated daily series that lasted 1 year (1988-9). Perhaps the reason it failed to catch on might be that Ruby-Spears & Warner Bros. couldn't convince the movie cast (i.e. Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, Michael Winslow, et al) to contribute to the cartoon, which was set between the 4th & 5th films in the series. Aside from veterans Howard Morris & Frank Welker, the cast for the cartoon was made up largely of unknowns. Ironically, Winslow got his start in cartoons (Space Stars) 7 years earlier, and would've had the easiest job reprising as Larvell Jones.

Today, the series sits in WB's vaults after having been released on DVD, and at no time do I recall it airing on either Cartoon Network or Boomerang. To help refresh your memory, here's the episode, "Worth Her Weight In Gold":

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

This year, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer marks its 50th annual broadcast. Next year, that honor goes to the very first Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The plot is really very simple. Charlie Brown and friends improvise a Christmas tree in time for a school pageant. Predictably, the tree isn't up to standards, but it's the spirit of the season that counts more.

The highlights include the debut of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus & Lucy", an instrumental composition that has been used in many a Peanuts special since, and Linus reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, explaining the birth of Jesus.

Edit, 12/4/2020: The video is no longer available in complete form. In its place, we will use a title card.

Many of us got our first Bible lesson courtesy of Linus. Who knew?

Rating: A+.

Countdown to Christmas: Cricket on the Hearth (1967)

The following was originally published on my other blog, The Land of Whatever, back in 2010:
Here's a Rankin-Bass production that somehow has been lost to the mists of time, having not gotten as much airplay as the rest of the R-B line. Cricket on the Hearth is based on a story by Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), and, as with virtually every other R-B special, is star-packed, with an all-star cast headlined by Danny & Marlo Thomas. Marlo was starring in That Girl around this time, so this might've aired on ABC, I'm not sure. The cast also features actor-singer Ed Ames (Daniel Boone), Abbe Lane, and Roddy McDowell as the titular cricket. Also, Hans Conreid reunited with Danny Thomas, as he'd been a regular on Make Room For Daddy before turning to animation.

Right now, let's take a look. Turns out this was a collaborative effort between Rankin-Bass and Danny Thomas' production company he had with Aaron Spelling.

Edit, 12/4/2020: Had to change the video, and this version has a live-action intro with Danny Thomas at the piano.

Seeing as how I've never seen this show, I cannot rightly give it a rating. It is, however, available on DVD in a compilation package.
I'm just begging someone to air this now, with Christmas 2 weeks away.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Toon Rock: Popeye in Riot in Rhythm (1950)

"Riot in Rhythm" is a remake of the Fleischers' "Me Musical Nephews", in which Popeye's 4 nephews have taken up music, but rather than go through their boring lessons, the boys want to rock. Check it.

Simply one of the best.

Rating: A++.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

From out of the Recycling Bin: Toon Heads (1992)

One of the reasons older viewers have tuned out Cartoon Network in recent years might be the cancellation of the anthology series, Toon Heads, which usually aired on Sunday nights. Even though only three seasons worth of episodes were produced, the network kept the show running for 11 years (1992-2003), bringing it back for a 1 shot special in 2005.

Toon Heads was informative as well as entertaining. An off-screen narrator explained the history of certain characters (i.e. Tom & Jerry, Elmer Fudd) and offered trivial facts about creators such as Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and Bob Clampett, or actors like Daws Butler and Mel Blanc. In fact, CN's subsequent anthology packages devoted to the works of Jones, Avery, & Clampett could be considered spin-offs from Toon Heads as they mined the same ground.

Unfortunately, no complete episodes are available. What is, however, is a network promo and the intro:

It's just too bad CN can't be bothered to bring this show back again.

Rating: A.

It Should've Been on a Saturday (Morning): The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996)

Nickelodeon never believed in putting all their eggs in one basket. Their philosophy has been, and will remain until someone convinces them otherwise, is to take a hit series and drive it into the ground. Somehow, some of their live-action shows have avoided this dubious fate.

One of those shows was The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, about an Asian-American teen (Irene Ng, who was actually out of her teens when the series began) who solves crimes that baffle the police. Oddly enough, she works as an intern at the police department, and that's how she gets her cases.

Helping Shelby is her sage grandfather (Pat Morita, ex-Happy Days, in his final TV series role), an innkeeper, who keeps advising against solving crimes, but still ends up coming to his granddaughter's aid. The first three seasons were set in Florida, but after the Canadian studio, Cinar, joined the production of the series, the Woos were relocated to Boston. Go figure.

Here's a sample intro:

I think Shelby was meant to be an Asian Nancy Drew, but, aside from a rerun airing in 2011 during TeenNick's The 90's Are All That block, Shelby's been locked in the Viacom vaults. How's that for respect?

Rating: B.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Comes But Once A Year (1936)

I think the last time Max Fleischer's "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" aired on TV was on Cartoon Network's now-defunct Toon Heads anthology series, and eventually, we'll get to that. For right now, though, let's take a look at this Golden Age Yuletide treat.

A break from the usual for the Fleischer studio. As we saw with Popeye's holiday shorts, the Fleischers know how to do Christmas right.

Rating: A-.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Christmas Phantom (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

Let's start our annual Countdown to Christmas with a Yuletide offering from Archie's Weird Mysteries. To my knowledge, the episode, "The Christmas Phantom", may in fact be the only time Archie Andrews and his friends had a Christmas episode in any of their incarnations (I can't speak for the New Archies just yet). I didn't see this episode, so there's no rating. Rather, it's here for your perusal.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye & Bluto play football (The Football Toucher Downer, 1937)

You would notice that many of the titles of Popeye's shorts in the Fleischer era referenced the spinach-eating sailor's speech impediments. No one outside of Norm Crosby fractured the English language like Popeye did. It was part of his charm.

Last month, we featured Popeye in a baseball themed short, "The Twisker Pitcher". Now, from 1937, here's "The Football Toucher Downer".

Today, someone like Bluto would land on an NFL team as a defensive lineman. Popeye? A place kicker, given his size.

Rating; A.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Literary Toons: Tarzan and the Vikings (1976)

From Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle:

The Ape Man (Robert Ridgely) discovers a tribe of Vikings, descended from a tribe that had landed in Africa more than 1,000 years earlier. Everything else is, well, predictable......

Lord of the Jungle has been described as the most faithful adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, topping not only the movie series, but also Ron Ely's 1966-8 live-action series. Disney's subsequent adaptation, while it went far off the track, also enabled Tarzan to be well spoken.

Rating: B.

Sunday Funnies: Fantastic Max (1988)

The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was looking for new concepts as it began its 4th season in 1988. What they got was their first preschool hero.

Fantastic Max lasted two seasons, and told the story of a toddler blessed with coherent speech and intellect at such a young age, aided by a robot from the planet Twinkle-Twinkle. I never saw the show, so I can only rely on the research I did. Let's serve up the intro:

FX, Max's alien doll sidekick, was voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who did some work for Hanna-Barbera in the 80's before a certain yellow-skinned juvenile made her famous, first on The Tracey Ullman Show. The voice cast also included Lorenzo Music (Garfield & Friends), Gail Mattheis (ex-Saturday Night Live), Phil Hartman (Pee-Wee's Playhouse), and Benji Gregory (Alf).

No rating.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On DVD: Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006)

2006 was not a good year for Superman.

The live-action "Superman Returns", meant to be a retelling of "Superman 2", wasn't exactly big box office. Making matters worse, Warner Bros.' animation division released a DTV that was even worse.

"Superman: Brainiac Attacks" has one thing going for it, and that's the return of Tim Daly as the voice of Superman, with Dana Delany as Lois Lane. After 6 years away, Daly can still pull off the dual role of Superman & Clark Kent. Unfortunately, casting the villains was hit or miss.

Powers Boothe was called in to play Lex Luthor, as apparently, Clancy Brown was either unavailable (SpongeBob SquarePants might have something to do with it), or wasn't asked back after yeoman's work for nearly a decade as Luthor. The end result? Well, Boothe paid more attention to Kevin Spacey's attempted homage to Gene Hackman in "Returns", and went a little over the top. Lex's sexy sidekick, Mercy Graves, ends up going 1-on-1 with.........Jimmy Olsen, who has a crush on her. Granted, Mercy (Tara Strong, replacing Lisa Edelstein) tells Jimmy she finds him cute, but that may have been just a ploy, nothing more. Meanwhile, Jimmy finds that a Daily Planet food critic has the hots for him, and that's a running joke for much of the 76 minute movie.

The plot, such as it is: Brainiac returns to Metropolis, his ship disguised as a runaway meteor, which happens to crash into LexLabs. Brainiac (Lance Henriksen, ex-Millennium) steals the data from the computers, then hijacks a multi-million dollar satellite that Lex just sent into space, and uses it against Superman. Somewhere along the way, Lois is taken ill, thanks to something injected into her bloodstream, and Superman must travel to the Phantom Zone to find a cure.

Here's the trailer:

Complicating matters is Supes contemplating disclosing his dual ID to Lois, but we don't quite get there. I think if they'd continued to animated series, they'd have gotten to that point eventually. Bruce Timm's designs still work, but Timm had nothing to do with the movie, which is a shame, because he would've made more sense out of this. Too many subplots spoil the party.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunday Funnies: Secret Squirrel meets Scirocco Mole (1993)

In 1993, Hanna-Barbera brought back Secret Squirrel as the backup feature of 2 Stupid Dogs. In fact, the Dogs make a cameo appearance, along with Yogi Bear, when Super Secret Secret Squirrel (Jess Harnell, mimicking Mel Blanc), is on a talk show to discuss Morocco Mole's twin brother, Scirocco.......

Oh, you didn't know Morocco had a brother? Well, at least we can give the writers credit for expanding on the family tree.

No rating, as I never saw this episode.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Know The Voice: Janet Waldo on The Lucy Show (1962)

Episodes of The Lucy Show have become available on YouTube, Dailymotion, and elsewhere, and if memory serves, they have been on Hulu of late. Anyway, we told you before that cartoon grand dame Janet Waldo had made a guest appearance on the show, and here it is, from the 1st season (1962). She plays Marge, the newlywed sister of Lucy Carmichael (Lucille Ball), who visits Lucy after her first spat with her husband. Funny thing. Said husband is played by Peter Marshall, 4 years before The Hollywood Squares made him an icon!!

Janet has long since been bestowed iconic status, and now you know why, having worked with not only Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera, but also Lucy, and Andy Griffith, among others. At 90, she's still going strong.......

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Personal Favorites: Stalker From The Stars (Thundarr The Barbarian, 1980)

Thundarr The Barbarian faces a very odd foe in the episode, "Stalker From The Stars".

A spider-like space vampire lands on 40th century Earth, and begins capturing human prey to take back home for food. One of his victims is Princess Ariel, and for Thundarr (Robert Ridgely) and a flu-ridden Ookla (Henry Corden), that makes it personal.

The quirk in the script is obvious in the final part. Earlier, the Stalker had webbed up Ariel's hands to block her magic, but she seemingly has magic powers throughout her body. One simple kick frees her hands. Later, after being completely coccooned, Ariel is able to get herself out by making the coccoon disappear, when Thundarr wasn't able to penetrate the alien webbing to save an elderly man. The easy excuse is that the Stalker caught Ookla's cold, which weakened the strength of his webbing as the story went on.

Edit, 7/20/20: The video was deleted. For now, we have a screen shot of a scene from the show:

Stalker from the Stars

Rating: A.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: The New Adventures of Batman (1977)

Batman returned to CBS after 7 years away in February 1977, even though reruns of Super Friends were still airing on ABC at the time. The series cycled though in reruns on CBS until 1980, when it moved to NBC for one last cycle. The fact that rival Hanna-Barbera held a license of their own for the DC characters, one that would be renewed a few months after New Adventures launched, precluded Filmation from moving forward with a 2nd season.

There were a number of changes:

1. Villains: Even though he was included in the open, the Riddler wasn't used, as he'd been acquired, along with Scarecrow, by H-B, and would return in Challenge of the Super Friends the next year. Made-for-TV foes from the 1968 series, Simon the Pieman & The Judge, were not brought back. Instead, new villains were developed in the form of Sweet Tooth, Prof. Bubbles, Electro (not to be confused with the Marvel villain of the same name), and the Moonman.

2. Character designs: The only cosmetic changes were on three characters. For starters, Police Commissioner James Gordon was given the same look he had in the comics, with silver hair and a mustache, as opposed to being clean shaven & brown haired 9 years earlier. Robin's costume tunic had been color-reversed to avoid confusion with the Super Friends model. Catwoman traded in her green turtleneck jumpsuit for a brown leotard & tights, and her hair color changed from black to brown as well. The Princess of Plunder got the worst of the deal.

3. Casting: The big selling point, of course, was the return of Adam West & Burt Ward as Batman & Robin. Filmation needed to recast the leads with Olan Soule & Casey Kasem now at H-B. The studio's leading lady, Jane Webb, however, was not brought back to reprise as Batgirl & Catwoman. Instead, a relative newcomer, Melendy Britt, stepped in, as Webb was being phased out. Webb's last Filmation job was the Archie-Sabrina Hour for NBC in the fall of '77. Also, with Ted Knight wrapping up The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and seemingly retired from toons (his last Filmation work was Lassie's Rescue Rangers), veteran writer-actor Len Weinrib took over the roles of Gordon, Joker, Mr. Freeze, & Penguin, in addition to various subordinates and the new villains. His Sweet Tooth voice, for example, was a riff on Paul Lynde, and, as noted before, his Moonman might have been partially inspired by Casey Kasem, but not all the way. Co-executive producer Lou Scheimer went uncredited as the Bat-Computer, various incidental characters, and Bat-Mite, the 5th Dimensional imp whose attempts at aiding the Masked Manhunters were disasters waiting to happen, counter-balanced by his crush on Batgirl. Weinrib voiced the villain Zarbor, who came from Bat-Mite's world, and appeared in the final 3 episodes. Scheimer would recycle and modify his Bat-Mite voice for Orko (He-Man & The Masters of the Universe) just 5 years later.

In addition, in keeping with the comics of the day, Batgirl's dual ID of Barbara Gordon was known to the Dynamic Duo, and otherwise, Barbara was now an assistant district attorney, in contrast to the books, where she had been elected to Congress, a role she'd have until the early 80's. Also, as noted, while Bat-Mite carried a torch for her, in the books, Batgirl had to deal with Robin developing a similar crush that would lead to an on-again, off-again romance. Shoot, they'd even discussed marriage at one point. Bat-Mite couldn't be that lucky, even if he tried.

Some of the incidental music, composed by Ray Ellis (under the dual pseudonyms of Yvette Blais & Jeff Michael, which Ellis used at Filmation throughout the 70's), was lifted from live-action shows such as Shazam!. Like, couldn't they afford new music?

To refresh your memories, here's the open & close:

Rating: A.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Schooled: Reading Rainbow (1983)

We all know that PBS' longest running children's program has been, and forever will be, Sesame Street, which marks its 45th anniversary this year. Few have come close to matching its longevity, and on a short list of series that trail behind Sesame, you're bound to find Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow ceased production in 2006 after 23 seasons, all of which were hosted by actor LeVar Burton, who, at one point in the show's run, turned a rare hat trick by working on two other series concurrently. You might have heard of them----Star Trek: The Next Generation & Captain Planet. Talk about being busy.

For the balance of its run, Rainbow anchored PBS' afternoon block, and in some respects can be credited with a back-door pilot of a sort. After TV icon Bill Cosby read one of Marc Brown's Arthur  books, the titular character was given his own series, which continues to this day. The segments where celebrities such as Cosby read various books has its roots in CBS' long running Captain Kangaroo, which gravitated to PBS to finish its initial run in the mid-80's after CBS dropped it. Regardless of what you might think of Cosby now, given the torrent of salacious accusations lodged against him, his inclusion on Rainbow marked the entertainer's return to PBS, after being an original cast member of The Electric Company.

Given how PBS rebooted Electric Company into something completely different a few years ago, one would assume that if they choose to bring back Reading Rainbow at some future point, it too would undergo a needless reboot. Seems to me that when they relaunched Electric Company, they did so with the idea of trying to compete with certain broadcast cable networks that needn't be named here (though you know who they are). Can't see that happening with the Rainbow.

Here's a sample clip:

Too bad PBS took the reruns off the air in 2009, else today's kids could really learn something.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looney TV: Foghorn Leghorn for Oscar Mayer (1981)

Now, here's an ad that I have zero memory of seeing the first time around.

Oscar Mayer, now a part of the Kraft family at last check, contracted Warner Bros. to use Foghorn Leghorn (Mel Blanc) in a 1-shot ad in 1981. Foggy's on the beach, and, as usual, is befuddled by the kids he's with, in this case, humans.

And you wonder why Foghorn doesn't get that many commercial endorsements?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bad TV: Fighting Foodons (2002)

In 2002, Fox outsourced their Saturday morning lineup to 4Kids Entertainment. Unfortunately, the anime-heavy lineup did manage to lay a couple of eggs.

One was Fighting Foodons, which, as I understand it, was meant to be a satire on another, more popular import, Pokemon, and perhaps, in general, card games from which Pokemon and others were adapted for television. The series lasted just 11 1/2 months on Fox before being cancelled. Well, there was one worse anime on the roster, and we covered that a long while ago (Ultimate Muscle), which somehow lasted longer.

Anyway, to refresh your memories, scope out the open, and try to get a handle on how food recipes can become monsters..........

The theme music borrows a familiar melody that has been used for supermarkets such as Shop Rite in the past. The concept, if it was meant to be funny, wasn't.

Rating: D.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looney TV: How not to record an audiobook, as taught by Foghorn Leghorn (2011)

GEICO went back to the Looney Tunes kennel to bring old foes Foghorn Leghorn & Henery Hawk together for an ad. Seems our favorite rooster was asked to record an audiobook version of an old Dickens novel......

Where was the Barnyard Dog when you really needed him?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Toon Rock: (Open Your Heart &) Let the Sunshine In (1965)

Hanna-Barbera missed out on a golden opportunity to do a soundtrack album from The Flintstones, that much is clear.

Consider that in addition to Fred doing the occasional number (with either Henry Corden or Duke Mitchell as a singing double for Alan Reed), you had Barney & Betty (Mel Blanc & Bea Benaderet) doing a duet in one episode, Ann-Margret and the Beau Brummels as musical guest stars, and, to top it all, they had Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm doing their first number, 6 years before their elevation to teenagers and forming their band, the Bedrock Rockers.

And, so, we present our preschool pop stars, performing "(Open Your Heart &) Let The Sunshine In", which was used as a closing theme for some episodes in the final season.

Toonfomercial(s): Two ads for Kellogg's (1959-60)

Here's two for the price of one.

As we have discussed in the past, Kellogg's sponsored some of Hanna-Barbera's earliest shows. That meant the stars would be doing in-show ads for various cereals.

First, Quick Draw McGraw (Daws Butler) is filming an ad for Rice Krispies. Eventually, after Kellogg's ended their association with H-B, Snap, Crackle, & Pop would be brought to animated life.

Then, Hokey Wolf (Butler again) schools Huckleberry Hound (Butler) on how to shill for Corn Flakes.

Hokey never got his own show, but H-B used Phil Silvers as inspiration for Top Cat, and, a decade later, Butler recycled his Hokey voice for Hair Bear, while Arnold Stang was cast as Top Cat, largely to avoid TC & HW sounding too much alike.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Zoom (1972)

PBS got into the Saturday morning business waaaaaaaaay too late. Their Bookworm Bunch block a few years back was a throwback to simpler times, but the Public Broadcasting System could've been a playa, if ya will, if they only were able to line up some of their weekday programming for Saturday consumption and as an alternative to the broadcast networks.

Exhibit A in this regard is Zoom, which had two runs totalling 13 seasons in all (1972-8, 1999-2005), and could've easily been plugged into a Saturday slot if needed.

Zoom was the creation of one Christopher Sarson, who served as executive producer for the initial run. The cast would change on a yearly basis, though there would be at least one or two holdovers each year. The kids did comedy skits, musical numbers, and even some dance routines, which might explain why the co-ed troupe all performed barefoot in the first two seasons, but added socks & sneakers in season 3.

Following is a sample open from the 1st season:

PBS and affiliate WGBH, out of Boston, revived Zoom in 1999, 21 years after the original series ended, with the same format. Sarson was no longer involved with the show, but his vision remained vital. Too bad PBS has it in the vaults now.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rare Treats: How ABC affiliates were introduced to Bugs Bunny & the Flintstones (1960)

Following is an excerpt from a closed circuit ABC affiliates presentation from 1960.

A trio of "network executives" are discussing the network's 1st primetime animated series, The Flintstones & The Bugs Bunny Show. One of the actors is radio veteran Harold Peary (ex-The Great Gildersleeve).

Of course, we all know the result. Bugs Bunny was moved to Saturday mornings after 2 seasons, and Flintstones lasted 6 years. The above clip was played for affiliates on the West Coast, but what I'd like to know is if they did this for the East Coast, as well.

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman Beyond vs. Bat-bot (2014)

Writer-artist Darwyn Cooke, the mastermind behind DC's successful New Frontier miniseries a few years back (which later became a movie), has crafted a salute to Batman as part of DC's ongoing celebration of the Dark Knight's 75th anniversary. Here, Cooke takes us back to the futuristic world of Batman Beyond as Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) & Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) have to deal with an intrusion of Bat-robots in the Batcave........

The problem with this one is that it starts in the middle, and doesn't have an ending, as if this was a teaser for something bigger. Like maybe a full-length movie that we haven't heard about. I was never keen on this alternate future in the first place, but it has its fanbase, like everything else in the Batfranchise.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Toons You Might've Missed: Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles (1994)

A while back, we discussed the 1995 G. I. Joe Extreme series. That wouldn't have happened had Sunbow, which gained a fresh license for the franchise, had succeeded in adapting a new addition to Hasbro's long running line of G. I. Joe action figures.

Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles never aired on television. It was one of the earliest animated DTV's (Direct to Video), released in 1994, and used to promote Hasbro's newest action figures (commercials are included with the following video). Unfortunately, the toys didn't sell, and a year later, Savage was incorporated into G. I. Joe Extreme. Of the Eagles, only Mouse would later resurface, in a cameo appearance in the movie "G. I. Joe: Retaliation", last year, nearly 20 years after his debut.

And, so, for your entertainment pleasure, this is our way of marking Veterans Day. There will be no rating.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meet Spider-Man's new teammate (for a night): Jessie! (Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, 2014)

As if having Phineas & Ferb meet Spider-Man and some of the Avengers wasn't enough, the Web-Spinner (Drake Bell) welcomes another Disney Channel star to his show.

Jessie (Debby Ryan, ex-Suite Life on Deck) and her charges meet Spidey, and tangle with Morgaine Le Fey in the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors episode, "Halloween Night at the Museum", which premiered on Disney Channel last month before airing on DisneyXD, home to the Marvel Universe block.

In the books, Spider-Man has hobnobbed with celebrities before, but not like this.....

Sorry, but the teaser is all we got for right now. Suffice it to say, it plays out as a typical Web Warriors episode, except that Spidey is the only hero on hand, and doesn't break the 4th wall as much as he normally would. Which is an improvement, given how badly this show started two years ago.

Rating: C+.

Looney TV: Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943)

Back to the Golden Age we go.

Daffy Duck is a talent agent, while Porky Pig is a studio executive looking to slip away for a round of golf. Daffy thinks he's got the talent find of the year. Notice how he doesn't mention Lana Turner by name ("The Sweater Girl"). Hmmmmm.

Either Daffy's skills as a talent scout are questionable, or Sleepy, his new protege, isn't all he's quacked up to be. Scope for yourself in "Yankee Doodle Daffy" from 1943:

I've seen this one at least a dozen times, and I've never really been totally impressed. And we would see better material from writer Tedd Pierce and director Isadore "Friz" Freleng down the line.

Rating: C.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tobor, The 8th Man (1963)

Japan's Tobor, The 8th Man started as a manga (Japan's version of comic books), and made his way to television in 1963, imported to the US by ABC, but not airing on the network itself, 2 years later.

Tobor, or, 8-Man, as it was known in Japan, was the story of one of comicdom's 1st cyborg heroes. A police detective, killed in the line of duty, is brought back to life by a scientist who transfers his brain into an android, giving him fantastic powers. Tobor (robot spelled backwards) continues to this day in Japanese manga, but has not found the going any easier in America. The original cartoon lasted just 1 year, and out of 56 episodes produced, only 52 were successfully dubbed for English language broadcast. Winston Sharples, better known for his work with Famous Studios/Paramount/King Features, composed the English language theme, as cheesy as it sounds.

There will not be a rating, as I never saw the show, but we'll serve up the series opener as a service.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Looney TV: Pigs in a Polka (1943, 1948)

We all know the story of the Three Little Pigs. Shoot, both Disney & Warner Bros. have adapted it. In WB's case, it's been done multiple times.

WB's most famous adaptation would be the swinging "Three Little Bops", with Stan Freberg narrating. However, some years earlier, WB's then honcho, Leon Schlesinger, decided to do a satire on both the classic tale and Disney's "Fantasia" with "Pigs in a Polka".

The Blue Ribbon reissue was released 5 years after the original release, just in case anyone's keeping score at home.

Rating: B.

Krofftverse: Electra Woman & Dyna Girl vs. the Sorcerer (1976)

I think it's time we finally showcased Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, don't you?

Our distaff do-gooders lasted just the first season of Krofft Supershow, but would later get a new life on cable via reruns. A 2001 primetime revival never got past the pilot stage, but that will be discussed another time. Anyway, our heroines (Diedre Hall & Judy Strangis) tangle with the Sorcerer (Michael Constantine, ex-Room 222) in this two-part adventure.

Norman Alden co-starred as the duo's aide, Frank Heflin, and after the series was cancelled, went back to Hanna-Barbera to resume his role as Aquaman when Super Friends returned to all-new stories the following season. Speaking of the Sea King, the original voice of Aquaman, Marvin Miller, is the narrator.

Edit, 4/19/22: The video was deleted. In its place is a short excerpt that does more to acknowledge its Bat-origins, if you will:

Totally cheesy, and that was by design, but if this was supposed to parody Batman, it didn't quite work out that way.

Rating: C.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Toonfomercial: Remember Sugar Chex? (1970)

Chex cereals were the signature brand of Ralston-Purina's cereal division for years. But did you know there was something called Sugar Chex (formerly Sugar Frosted Chex)? To be honest with you, I didn't even know this existed, as it came and went in about a year or so.

Ralston-Purina obtained a license from Harvey Comics to use Casper and his nefarious uncles, the Ghostly Trio, in this spot.

A few years ago, Ralston sold their cereals, the ones that were still being made anyway, such as the Chex line and Cookie Crisp, to General Mills. Purina, meanwhile, is part of the expanded Nestle company. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Krofftverse: Here's the story......of a werewolf named Brady (Bigfoot & Wildboy, 1977)

Yes, kids, Christopher Knight (The Brady Bunch Variety Hour) guest-starred on the Bigfoot & Wildboy segment of Krofft Supershow, which was likely in exchange for Kaptain Kool & the Kongs visiting the Bradys' Sunday night soiree. Christopher played a young man seemingly afflicted with lycantropy. Stress seemingly.

Edit, 11/5/21: Had to change the video, now in 2 parts:

Series creators Joe Ruby & Ken Spears also were responsible for the segment Bigfoot replaced, Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, so they were working for the Kroffts AND Hanna-Barbera for those two seasons (1976-8) before launching their own studio. Ya wonder, though, if they were able to reclaim the rights from the Kroffts, and if they did, could Bigfoot & Wildboy make a comeback?

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this episode.

Monday, November 3, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Popeye in Ancient Fistory (1952)

Popeye (Jack Mercer) parodies Cinderella in the 1952 short, "Ancient Fistory". In this story, Bluto (Jackson Beck) owns a pub, and Popeye is his chief cook, bottle washer, and servant.

As it happened, even though I never saw the film, it seems Jerry Lewis did it better a few years later in "Cinderfella". Go figure.

Rating: C. Not one of Popeye's best.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Piledriver (1987)

Although the chyrons on this next video appear to have been from both Saturday Night's Main Event and Friday Night Videos, trust me, "Piledriver", the title track from the then-World Wrestling Federation's 2nd CD in 1987, aired on the promotion's programming on Saturday mornings, too.

Wrestler Koko B. Ware had sung in his church choir growing up in Tennessee, and one wonders what might have happened had he chosen a musical career over wrestling. You know the supporting cast, I'm sure...........

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Air: Teenage Fairytale Dropouts (2012)

Teenage Fairytale Dropouts was developed in Mexico in 2012, and has migrated around the world, debuting on The Hub (now Discovery Family) in May of this year.

If the basic concept sounds remotely familiar, that's because MTV had a similarly themed series, Clone High, just a few short years ago, airing in primetime. This time, though, the kids are the offspring of famous characters such as Merlin and Pinocchio. And, yeah, it's almost as bad.

Following is a sample clip:

With Election Day next week, the episode about a race for class president seems mighty appropriate, don't you think? I just wish they tried this with CGI instead of flash animation.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spooktober: Bone Chillers (1996)

Thanks to the popularity of R. L. Stine's Goosebumps on Fox, ABC wanted their piece of the horror-lit action for their Saturday morning lineup. Unfortunately, Betsy Haynes' Bone Chillers was a bust, cancelled after 1 season.

Bone Chillers, like Goosebumps, used mostly unknowns, but one, Linda Cardellini, later went on to greater things, such as the first 2 "Scooby-Doo" live-action movies (she'd later work on the Mystery Incorporated series), and primetime roles on Freaks & Geeks & ER. Veteran Charles Fleischer ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", ex-Welcome Back, Kotter) co-starred as Arnie, the janitor who helped the kids at Edgar Allan Poe High.

Following is the series finale, "Full Moon Goon":

Three VHS compilations were released in 1997, but the series is not yet on DVD. Can't see why.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On The Air: Mike Tyson Mysteries (2014)

Well, it's here. Monday saw the debut of Mike Tyson Mysteries, [adult swim]'s latest 15 minute comedy series, and, well, it's about what you'd expect.

The former World boxing champion now fancies himself a comedian, as per turns in the "Hangover" movie series, and parodies the celebrity-driven cartoons of his youth by voicing his own animated likeness. Aided by the ghost of the Marquess (actually Marquis, but factor in Mike's speech impediment, played for laughs) of Queensbury as his new mentor, Tyson has an adopted daughter and a talking pigeon (Norm McDonald, ex-Saturday Night Live) rounding out the team. The script, in typical [as] fashion, is all over the place, such as in the opener.....

Edit: 11/5/14: [adult swim], or, at least the fan channel that posted the episode, has privatized it. In its place, we give you an excerpt from IGN.:

Well, what can you do in 15 minutes? Tyson doubles as a consulting producer, since this was his idea in the first place. How many classic cartoon tropes did you spot in the episode?

Rating: B--.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Toon Sports: Off Road Racer (Catillac Cats, 1984)

Riff Raff and the Catillac Cats take up off-road auto racing in this episode. Riffy decides to enter when he learns his girlfriend, Cleo, kisses the winner. Gee, y'think maybe this is also a bit of a homage to Wacky Races?

Funny thing. Actor Stan Jones, better known as the voice of Lex Luthor to fans of the Super Friends franchise, voices both Riff Raff and Wordsworth, the latter voice seemingly a mimic of certain of Howard Morris' characters (i.e. Mayor McCheese). Like, who knew?

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Toon Legends: Scooby-Doo vs. the Diabolical Disc Demon (1978)

It's been a while since we showcased Scooby-Doo, so why don't we take a trip back to 1978, when Mystery, Inc. (though not going by that appellation at the time) took on the case of "The Diabolical Disc Demon". As memory serves, the episode title card was edited off some syndicated prints, aside from this one.....

Yes, the villain is modeled after KISS bassist/vocalist and later actor-reality show star Gene Simmons, whose costume predictably lent itself to be copied like this. KISS, it should be noted, made a live-action movie for Hanna-Barbera around the same time that you'd be hard pressed to find today.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saturday School: Two Rabbits Too Many (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, 1969-71)

Well-meaning Sabrina (Jane Webb) tries again to pep up downtrodden Jughead (Howard Morris), but her success spell has an unexpected side effect. Jughead starts behaving like a rabbit, just in time for Riverdale High to be audited. Uh-oh.

Edit, 11/14/19: We've changed the video to use the complete episode, as "Pet Show" leads off.

Study the image of Sabrina's cousin, Ambrose (Morris). In both the current Secrets of a Teenage Witch series, and the just-launched Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic book, Ambrose has been de-aged into a warlock around Sabrina's age or older, and not the comedy relief he was presented to us as back in the day. I prefer the adult Ambrose myself. What about you?

Rating: B.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Literary Toons: The Get Along Gang (1984)

The Get Along Gang marks its 30th anniversary this year. American Greetings introduced the characters through their subsidiary, Those Characters From Cleveland, and managed to land a television deal. Twice.

The pilot episode was produced by Canada's Nelvana Studios for Nickelodeon, presumably in the first half of 1984. Former Lovin' Spoonful frontman John Sebastian, who'd previously scored some specials for Nelvana, recorded the theme song. However, by the time the fall schedule was announced, the series had switched animation houses to DIC, and was picked up by CBS. That also meant that some of the voice actors were changed. For example, Charles Haid (Hill Street Blues), the original voice of Montgomery Moose, was replaced by a considerably younger actor with a little more cartoon experience in Sparky Marcus (ex-Richie Rich, The Bad News Bears).

Unfortunately, only 1 season was produced at DIC, and CBS kept it around until 1986. Here's the intro to the CBS/DIC version:

No rating.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spooktober: The Last Halloween (1991)

To be honest with you, I wouldn't have known this even existed, were it not for a review that appeared over at Twin Factor the other day.

The Last Halloween, if I'm not mistaken, will go down in history as the last live-action television special produced by Hanna-Barbera. The last live-action series, Wake, Rattle, & Roll, had bowed a year earlier. Co-authored and directed by Savage Steve Holland, who'd later bring us Eek! The Cat and some other goodies, Last Halloween might as well have been alternately titled, "Mars Needs Candy", because four bizarre beings from Mars arrive on Earth searching for something called "coobi", or, in our language, candy. As was noted at Twin Factor, M & M/Mars, now known simply as Mars, Inc., was the primary sponsor, which is why this has such a sweet plot. Sweet in terms of candy, that is.

Co-executive producer William Hanna serves as narrator, which itself is a rarity. The cast includes Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Eugene Roche, whose extensive resume includes Kojak, The Corner Bar, Soap, All In The Family, & Magnum, P. I., and Richard Moll (Night Court), as a Lurch-like chauffeur/assistant to the main villain, played by Perlman. Two kids team with the four Martians (voiced by Frank Welker, Don Messick, and singer-songwriter Paul Williams) to save the town's candy factory from being closed, thanks to the villain's experiments involving bugs. Eeeew. That does sound a little on the gross side.

I never saw this when it first aired, so there won't be a rating. We'll just serve this up, just for kicks, especially with Halloween less than 2 weeks away.

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. is holding this in the vaults, as I don't think this was ever released on DVD.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Toonfomercial: Remember this Kellogg's ad campaign? (1976)

In the summer of 1976, CBS experimented by adding a primetime edition of their recently revived Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show, albeit in a half hour format, as opposed to the hour-long, later 90 minute, Saturday show. A couple of quick snippets from a Tuesday night airing bracket this next subject.

In our bicentennial year, Kellogg's embarked on an ad campaign spotlighting famous Americans, such as Ben Franklin & Thomas Edison under the umbrella, "Yes, we can!". The incomparable Casey Kasem narrates.

Yes, this spot also aired on Saturday mornings. I'm not sure if anyone kept the empty boxes after nearly 40 years............

Friday, October 17, 2014

Saturtainment: The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley (1994)

Not long after Full House had come to an end, Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen returned, this time in a series of DTV mysteries that later migrated to the Family Channel (now ABC Family).

The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley was a comedy-musical-mystery series that was meant for the little ones. The videos were readily available at the usual places, but today, are collecting dust somewhere, like the twins' later series. Fam, for that matter, gave up on the series after about a year, likely due to 1) low ratings and 2) Olsen fatigue hadn't dissipated yet.

Warner Video On Demand's YouTube channel provides a sample clip:

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spooktober: Miss Switch to the Rescue (1982)

Courtesy of YouTube, we present another offering from the ABC Weekend Special.

Miss Switch (Janet Waldo) returns in the sequel to 1980's The Trouble With Miss Switch. Rupert & Amelia need her help again, especially Amelia, who's been kidnapped by a warlock, who had tricked the kids into releasing him from his prison, one of the oldest tropes in fiction.

It all begins with a stranger (June Foray) delivering a package, containing the warlock, to the kids.......

No rating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saturtainment: Soul Alive (1977)

In 1977, with disco in full effect, WPIX in New York wanted a piece of the pie. They didn't have the rights to Don Cornelius' seminal Soul Train at the time, so the station commmissioned a locally produced music series, Soul Alive. Back then, the station's handle was more "11 Alive" than WPIX.

New York DJ Gerry Bledsoe served as the host for the series, which lasted three seasons (1977-80). I can honestly say I never watched the show, though I'd heard of it via commercials airing on the station. TV Party's Billy Ingram takes us back in time with the closing moments of a particular episode, focusing on Bledsoe's rapid fire monologue.

Eventually, Soul Train would air on WPIX, but Soul Alive was long gone by then.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Ghostwriter (1992)

The Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) introduced a weekly mystery series for kids on PBS in 1992. Unfortunately, while Ghostwriter is probably playing overseas somewhere, it's not available in the US anymore, at a time when PBS can dust off some of their older shows for a new audience. Notwithstanding the loose revival of Electric Company, that is.

Ghostwriter, as memory serves, aired on Fridays, with month-long story arcs to keep viewers tuning in. Not just kids, but parents as well, largely because of the guest stars drawn to the show, including filmmaker-actor-activist Spike Lee, who appears in the story arc, "Into the Comics". Part one follows.......

Two years after the series ended, Sesame Workshop revived it under the title, The New Ghostwriter Mysteries, but this time, it aired on CBS as a Saturday morning entry. Sadly, it lasted just 1 season due to low ratings, and that, too, is lying in the Workshop's vaults somewhere.

Rating: B.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spooktober: Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends vs. Dracula (?) (1983)

Looks can sometimes be deceiving.

Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends find this out when a man purporting to be Dracula targets Firestar (Kathy Garver) to become his bride.......

I've seen better.

Rating: C.

Sunday Funnies: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1997)

Disney made a franchise out of 1989's "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids". Two sequels, one of which was direct-to-video, ultimately gave way to a weekly syndicated series.

However, the studio couldn't convince Rick Moranis ("Ghostbusters", ex-SCTV) to return to series television, so they hired Peter Scolari (ex-Newhart, Bosom Buddies) to take over the role of eccentric scientist and family man Wayne Szalinski, who ends up putting his family in one nutty sitch after another. Apparently, the change in actors didn't bother the franchise, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids lasted three seasons.

Here is a season 2 episode, "She's Like a Fish Out of Water".

Too bad Disney insists on leaving this in the vaults, as this would fit in nicely on Disney Channel and/or DisneyXD or ABC Family today.

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Animated (?) World of DC Comics: Puppetitans? ("Puppets? Whaat?", Teen Titans Go!, 2014)

Just when you thought the creative cretins behind Teen Titans Go! could sink no lower, along comes the season finale, which premiered on Thursday night.

Of course, the episode as a whole is unavailable, as there are excerpts such as this one:

The puppets, or, should I say, PuppeTitans, are live marionettes, but the regular cast still provides the voices. I watched about a minute or two of this nonsense, then flipped the channel. Why did I even bother?

Rating: EF (for EPIC FAIL!!!).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: First Men on the Moon (Fantastic Voyage, 1968)

Nothing, to me, says "jump the shark" about Fantastic Voyage than this episode, "First Men on the Moon". A government suit, Selwyn Upjohn (Ted Knight), wants to disband the CMDF, and brings along an unexpected aide in his son, Alvin, who supposedly is a scientific genius, but is really the worst kind of brat, as you'll see. Personally, I think Upjohn has a hidden agenda, but we'll see.........

The artistic department at Filmation wasn't exactly original with Erica Lane (Jane Webb). Her hair suggests a grown-up version of Betty Cooper from The Archie Show, while Webb didn't exactly go out of her way to make Erica sound any different than Betty or Batgirl. Maybe that, too, would explain why this show was ceased production after 1 season.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebrity Toons: The closest we'd ever get to an animated Bewitched (The Flintstones, 1965)

It's 1965. The Flintstones was in its 6th and final season. Bewitched was in its 2nd. Someone, either at ABC or Screen Gems, which at the time was distributing Hanna-Barbera's programming, decided to bring the two shows together, by concocting a 1-shot storyline that had Samantha & Darrin Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery & Dick York) moving pro tempore to Bedrock. H-B already had the character designs, since they provided the animated open to Bewitched.

To my knowledge, this was the only toon credit for York and Montgomery. And while reruns of Bewitched would emigrate to ABC's morning lineup, running six days a week at one point (!), apparently, no one thought to follow up on this experiment by creating an animated version of the series. The only other cartoon associated with the franchise was a Saturday Superstar Movie that featured Tabitha & Adam as teenagers, and this was right after Bewitched had ended its run. It's a pity. Anyway, Wilma (Jean VanderPyl) & Betty (Gerry Johnson, who'd taken over for Bea Benaderet in season 4) get acquainted with "Samantha":

Edit, 6/20/22: There are no videos available to post presently. We have, however located a screencap of Darrin & Samantha in Bedrock:

I am not entirely sure if this episode would be included in the Flintstones rerun package that aired on NBC while Bewitched was still on the air. We do know that it aired in syndication, though.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Looney TV: Bewitched Bunny (1954)

Bugs Bunny decides to take matters into his own hands when, while reading Hansel & Gretel, he sees a similar scene play out virtually right in front of him, as Witch Hazel (June Foray) charms a pair of children into her gingerbread house. Here's "Bewitched Bunny":

This wouldn't be the last time Bugs & Hazel would cross paths, of course.
Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spooktober: Boo Moon (1953)

Casper, the Friendly Ghost used to get a lot of airplay back in the day, right along with some of his contemporaries, such as Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, and Tom & Jerry. Unfortunately, these days, cable networks don't seem to be too interested. Their loss.

Now, though, would be the right time to bring Casper back. One way is to present one of his theatrical shorts from the 50's, particularly, 1953's "Boo Moon".

Rating: A.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Spooktober: Jack O'Lantern (1972)

From the syndicated Festival of Family Classics:

Jack O'Lantern springs from Irish folklore, and in this adaptation, is a leprechaun trapped in the shape of a pumpkin. Two kids, not knowing, carved the traditional face on the pumpkin, and after a formal meeting, if you will, in the barn, get Jack to agree to be the head of their scarecrow......

All that is available in English at the moment is this trailer, which apparently also included an adaptation of Yankee Doodle (not shown).

I remember seeing this, but it didn't move me all that much.

Rating: C.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Spooktober: Tutenstein (2003)

Tutenstein sprang from the pages of creator Jay Stephens' Jet Cat Clubhouse comic book, and onto television in 2003, debuting on Discovery Kids and NBC. The series spent three seasons on NBC, and lingered around DK/The Hub until the end of 2011. With Hub being rebooted into Discovery Family in 9 days, given that we're closing in on Halloween, this might be an appropriate time to bring the show back.

The story centers on a young mummy, awakened after 3,000 years by an aspiring Egyptologist, who is now Tut's reluctant mentor/sidekick.

Here's the intro:

This might've worked better if Tut were able to occasionally create the illusion of being a normal young boy of the modern age.

Rating: B-.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Looney TV: Does a Tasmanian Devil need an energy drink? (2014)

GEICO's latest "Did you know?" ad stars the Tasmanian Devil, back to his old, hyperkinetic self.

Enough said.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Spooktober: Growing Up Creepie (2006)

With The Hub changing formats to Discovery Family later this month, it would be appropriate to bring back one of Discovery Kids' oddest cartoons.

Growing Up Creepie tells the story of the titular orphan, raised by insects in an abandoned mansion. She can't reveal that she has no human parents per se, otherwise, she's likely to end up in an orphanage or foster care, it would appear.

Producer Mike Young nowadays is working with the French studio, Moonscoop, and at last check, Creepie's current home is the online network, Kabillion, which has an On Demand channel on Time Warner Cable (check your cable systems). Since a lot of shows have more than one cable home these days (i.e. Family Feud), why not have DF welcome Creepie home in time for Halloween?

Anyway, here's the episode, "Attack of the Wasp Zombies":

Rating: C.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Droopy, Master Detective (1993)

Droopy returned to television in a backup feature on Tom & Jerry Kids. The funny part is that those backup features led to Droopy getting his own series at last.

Droopy, Master Detective had one flaw. Da Droopster (Don Messick) now had a son/sidekick, Dripple (Charlie Adler). Not sure if Dripple was based on the offspring that Droopy had in at least one or two shorts at MGM, but the apple didn't fall far from the tree regardless. Fox originally had the show airing on Saturdays, then bumped it and shifted it to weekdays to burn off the episodes. Currently, they sit in WB's vaults, unused.

Here's the intro & close:

This might've worked better if, instead of picking up Droopy, H-B went with another father-son team of canines and revived Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy for this show. Then again, maybe not.

Rating: B.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Toons After Dark: Family Guy welcomes the Simpsons (2014)

This was one of the most one-sided crossovers in the history of crossovers.

Family Guy's season premiere on Sunday was a 1 hour special, as the Griffin family traveled to Springfield, USA, home of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, Fox really botched it, and at the same time, acknowledged whose creative bread they'd rather be buttering.

Let's just cut right to the plot, such as it is. Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) decides to become a cartoonist, and starts a 1-panel humor strip in the Quahog newspaper. Being about as dumb as a doorstop isn't a deterrent, as Griffin's crude drawings get a negative reaction, and the family is forced to flee the city. The family car is stolen at a rest stop, and that forces the Griffins to hike to Springfield. Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) takes the Griffins in, and the families bond. Well, everything seems to go smoothly. Lisa (Yeardley Smith) gives Meg (Mila Kunis) encouragement, then seethes when she sees that Meg has a talent as a saxophone player, just like her. Stewie (MacFarlane), after seeing Bart (Nancy Cartwright) bullied by Nelson Muntz, decides to avenge his new friend. Learning how to use a slingshot, Stewie captures and tortures Nelson. And if you thought that was wack.....

Brian (MacFarlane) and Chris (Seth Green, Robot Chicken) take Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons' dog, out for a walk, and Brian unwittingly allows the greyhound to run loose after disengaging the leash. Talk about awkward. The best scenes, however, belong to Peter & Homer. First, there's a ridiculous car wash skit, set to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". Then, after it's exposed that Peter had been fleecing the makers of Duff beer, the Griffins lose a lawsuit, and that leads to an epic fight between Peter & Homer, which exposes all the tropes of animation in a matter of minutes.

Just to remind fans of his aborted Flintstones project, MacFarlane throws in a cameo by Fred (Jeff Bergman) as a judge. Well, he knows this will be on [adult swim] eventually, unless Fox prohibits it, since The Simpsons' cable rights belong to one of their cable networks.

Edit, 5/31/21: The trailer's been deleted. In its place is the car wash bit.

The right way to go about this would've been to do it old school style, with part 1 airing on Simpsons, but I'm guessing either Matt Groening, or the folks at Film Roman, which animates Simpsons, weren't asked, or were and declined. By putting this entirely in MacFarlane's hands, well, what did you expect? Too many cutaway gags, a MacFarlane specialty, plus a cameo by Bob of Bob's Burgers and the alien from American Dad, which, oh by the way, is leaving Fox for TBS after a brief fall run.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye & Bluto take up baseball (The Twisker Pitcher, 1937)

As baseball enters its postseason tournament, we thought it'd be appropriate to serve up a vintage Popeye short that takes a bit of a poke at the grand old game.

Popeye & Bluto are opposing pitchers on semi-pro teams, one would guess, in "The Twisker Pitcher".

Well, at least Bluto finally had a fan rooting for him. Too bad the result was the same as it always was.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: GI Joe Renegades (2010)

When The Hub launched 4 years ago, one of their first original series brought back the GI Joe franchise, with a decided twist.

GI Joe Renegades recasts a small group of Joes as fugitives accused of a crime they didn't commit. Consider also that Cobra's involved (naturally), and you can figure out the rest.

Co-executive producer Jeff Kline came over from Sony, where he worked for their animation department (Adelaide) in the 90's and oversaw Men In Black and Jackie Chan Adventures, among others. Some of the character designs suggest that some of the Adelaide animation staff came with Kline. The creators drew inspiration from the 1983-7 series, The A-Team, which had been rebooted in theatres earlier in 2010 with Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. That franchise, of course, is a spiritual cousin to The Fugitive, making Renegades a part of a very large family tree, if you will.

Shout! Factory holds the rights to the video distribution of the series, likely as part of a merchandising deal with Hasbro. Here's the open:

Back in the day, it'd been teased that Scarlett & Snake Eyes were potentially a couple. It was noted in Renegades that they trained together, and therein lies an emotional connection. Well, it's a start. There'd been talk of a new GI Joe series in the pipeline, but with The Hub giving way to Discovery Family next month, it's also been reported that Hasbro has talked to Time Warner about future projects. Recall that Cartoon Network had been home to a previous GI Joe entry (on [adult swim]), and also has had a couple of Hot Wheels series. Chances are pretty good, then, for Hasbro to work with CN down the road, provided they're not asked to dumb things down.......!

GI Joe Renegades gets a B.

The Hub (2010-2014)

I didn't know about this until I ran across a posting by Silverstar over at Twin Factor the other day. After 4 years of trying to run with the big boys of children's television, The Hub Network, otherwise known simply as The Hub, is being rebooted yet again.

Again, you say? Yes. After all, The Hub rose from the ashes of the Discovery Kids channel after Hasbro bought a significant stake in the network, and subsequently opened a studio so they could revive some of their previously animated properties.

But, therein lies the problem. Like the networks they wanted to compete with, namely Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, & Cartoon Network, not to mention each channel's sister stations, The Hub fell into the pattern of plugging every available hole in the schedule with the hottest property they have, namely, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, despite a deep vault of other shows, including the entire DK library that could've been kept on the air to fill time. Instead, shows like The Future Is Wild & Grossology were phased out after a few weeks on The Hub. You'll recall that the other networks have made that same mistake by overplaying their golden geese (i.e. Scooby-Doo, Phineas & Ferb, etc.), but also learned to diversify their product, for better or worse.

The Hub's idea of diversification was to copy Nick at Nite and fill primetime with classic, family-friendly sitcoms, such as, most recently, Blossom. Discovery Communications, which is taking back full control next month, is rebranding the network as----wait for it---Discovery Family. Not exactly original, I know, but their idea of prime-time programming figures to be mostly documentaries, also aimed at families. Like, I wouldn't mind if they could persuade Disney to lease out those "True Life Adventure" documentaries that were in theatres back in the day, and haven't seen the light of day on DC in seemingly forever, or even The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, but the kiddo's will be bored to tears and will be fleeing to the other channels.

What seemingly sealed the deal was the decision made by programming head Margaret Loesch to step down at the end of the month. Loesch, whose resume includes stops at Marvel and Hanna-Barbera in the 80's, would be a good fit at CN if they didn't already have someone in place to take over for Stuart Snyder, who left at the end of March. While Friendship is Magic and other Hasbro toons will continue, as Hasbro will program a significant chunk of daytime programming, the ratings will suffer once the new programming schematic kicks in on October 13.

It was not that long ago that I had declared that The Hub was better than Cartoon Network. The diff, however, is that Hub wasn't reaching as many homes as CN, Nick, and/or Disney combined. That and ratings fatigue from overplaying My Little Pony into the ground would be enough to write fini.

Toon fans have to hope, though, that Discovery will bring back their own line of toons, like the shows mentioned above and Tutenstein, the latter in time for Halloween. If they don't, then they're wasting everyone's time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Know the Voice: Meet the voice behind Popeye (To Tell The Truth, 1974)

Well, blow me down!

Here's an episode of To Tell The Truth which leads with a guest appearance by Jack Mercer, the best known voice of Popeye. An excerpt from one of the spinach-eating sailor's 50's adventures precedes the game play.

I'll try to find the complete episode of Popeye & Olive on the moon soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting Schooled: The Flying House (1982)

When one thinks of the Japanese anime imported to the US in the 80's, one thinks immediately of Voltron or Star Blazers, a pair of serialized action anime that redefined the action cartoon, and introduced the idea of continuity into the genre.

However, before either one of those series reached our shores, Tatsunoko Productions of Japan, which was responsible for Speed Racer in the 60's, created an anime for younger viewers that would serve as a teaching tool at, say, a Vacation Bible School.

The Flying House lasted just 1 year total, 52 weekly episodes, from 1982-3, and was imported to the US for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, coupled with Superbook, which we'll review another time. Today, the series' cable rights are held by Trinity Broadcasting and Smile of a Child, a children's network not as readily available as TBN is.

The plot sees three kids playing a game of hide and seek in a wooded area before a storm hits. They then encounter a scientist and his robot aide, whose house is really a time machine. The robot goes berserk, and the five are sent back to Biblical times. This series was rare in that it had both a beginning and an ending, as the kids were brought back to their own time in the series finale.

I never watched this show, so I cannot rate it fairly. We'll leave you with an intro:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tooniversary: Archie tries to avoid the Dance of the Killer Bees (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

From TBEntertainment and Archie's Weird Mysteries:

The episode is called, "Dance of the Killer Bees". Since I didn't see this, I can't rate it, but I think hypnosis plays a role in this one.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Isis uncovers the Lights of Mystery Mountain (1975)

With its 40th anniversary a year away, I thought we'd take another look at Filmation's Secrets of Isis.

This time around, Isis (Joanna Cameron) intercedes when two teenage boys get caught up in a con man's scheme involving fake UFO's and gold. If you pay close attention to Cameron's voice, both as Isis and her mortal alter-ego, Andrea Thomas, is similar to that of Yvonne Craig (Batgirl from Batman), which gets me thinking. Cameron didn't land another series gig after this show ended in 1978, but what if they'd tried a Batgirl pilot around that time, in the wake of the success of Wonder Woman? She'd have been perfect!

Marc Richards is credited with "developing" the series, and also created Ghost Busters for Filmation that same season. At least this was able to linger around for 3 years.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tooniversary: The 1st episode of Here Comes the Grump (1969)

DePatie-Freleng's Here Comes The Grump turns 45 this month, and here, we have the first installement, "The Bloonywoonie Battle", in which Princess Dawn & Terry, and eventually, the Grump himself (Rip Taylor) encounter a race of sentient balloons. The scene where Grump falls off his dragon was lifted from one of Friz Freleng's Looney Tunes shorts with Bugs Bunny & Yosemite Sam, with Sam in the Grump's role, riding a dragon.

And you wonder why DFE eventually landed a license to adapt Dr. Seuss' works......!

Rating: B.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Toon Legends: Pink Lightning (1978)

The Pink Panther encounters Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde---sort of---in this 1978 offering that doubtlessly ended up airing on his ABC show. Hyde (Bob Holt, methinks) decides to put his formula into his car, but Jekyll trades it in, and the Panther buys the Hydemobile for mere chump change. Of course, trouble follows.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Jetsons, a la John Kricfalusi (2002)

After flopping with The Ripping Friends on 2 networks, including [adult swim], John Kricfalusi produced a series of shorts for [as], featuring The Jetsons, as well as Yogi Bear. Considering Kricfalusi's own warped imagination, well, this was bound to be a disaster, and it was.

Kricfalusi and his Spumco crew made George Jetson (Jeff Bergman, impersonating George O'Hanlon) and family far more dysfunctional than had been thought possible. This is not a good thing, especially considering it was the disrespectful dullards at [adult swim] who commissioned crap like "The Best Son":

Geez, you'd think the least they'd do is give Jane a pair of shoes. How many pairs of grey hose has she worn out over the course of 50+ years?

Rating: D--.

Saturtainment: Soul Unlimited (1973)

We've previously documented that there was a period in the 70's when American Bandstand was blacked out in my home district. The ABC affiliate at the time (now an NBC affiliate) opted for syndicated sports programming or other fare as a means of getting some extra local ad revenue.

What that meant in 1973, though, was that another Dick Clark entry would never be seen in upstate New York. Soul Unlimited was designed by Clark as his answer to Soul Train, which Don Cornelius took national two years earlier (the Train started as a regional show out of Chicago), perhaps feeling the ratings pinch in certain areas where the two iconic series would air head-to-head. Soul Unlimited would air on alternate weeks to give Clark a little time off the air, since he was also hosting The $10,000 Pyramid at the time.

Buster Jones was tapped as MC for the short-lived series, and because Soul Unlimited didn't air in my area, and perhaps several others, most of us would only become acquainted with Jones' voice 4 years later, as he signed on with Hanna-Barbera. His voice-over resume includes Super Friends (as Black Vulcan), Super Globetrotters, and, in the 80's, for Marvel-Hearst, Defenders of the Earth, and DIC's Real Ghostbusters.

Thus, the following clip is dedicated in Jones' memory, as he passed away recently at 71. Many thanks to fellow blogger Marc Tyler Nobleman for the tip. Marc has a short piece up at Noblemania.

Here's Buster, with the Sylvers.

Rest in peace, Buster. No rating for Soul Unlimited.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Blue (1973)

Pterixa brings a track from Butch Cassidy, with the Sundance Kids performing "Blue". Sadly, since we already have "Looking For Someone" elsewhere on this here blog, that represents the sum total of music from the show available presently on YouTube.

I'm begging WB to at least farm out the reruns to someone that's actually interested in them, since otherwise it sits in the vaults.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Eagle Riders (1996)

The third American adaptation of Japan's popular Gatchaman cartoons fell into the hands of songwriter-producer Haim Saban in 1996. Unfortunately, Eagle Riders, which adapted Gatchaman II & Gatchaman Fighter, failed to catch on here in the US.

While the characters and basic designs remained the same, the names were again changed. 65 episodes were produced, enough for 13 weeks of daily programs, much like the first American adaptation, Battle of the Planets. However, for whatever reason, only 13 episodes aired here, on Saturday mornings in syndication. Wikipedia claims it was a UPN series, but in truth it wasn't. It may have aired on UPN affiliates in different parts of the country (airing on the NBC affiliate here, which was a CBS affiliate when it aired Battle nearly 20 years earlier), but it was definitely not part of the network.

I didn't see much of the show to merit giving it a rating. We'll leave you with the intro. Part of the narrative was cut off by the poster, the cleverly monickered None.

For those who care, actor Bryan Cranston, before hitting it big in primetime with Malcolm in the Middle & Breaking Bad, is one of the voice actors in Eagle Riders. Like, who knew?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye takes up bowling (1960)

When Al Brodax, head of King Features Syndicate's TV division, began producing Popeye shorts, he in effect watered down the spinach-eating sailor's adventures into sitcom fluff.

Take for example "Strikes, Spares, & Spinach". Popeye (Jack Mercer) & Brutus (Jackson Beck) are frenemies in this one, but the rivalry over Olive Oyl (Mae Questel) remains. This time, the guys are taking turns teaching Olive how to bowl. The American Bowling Congress, thankfully, never considered using this as an instructional video.

During this era, if you've seen one, you've probably seen them all.

Rating: B.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Schooled: Joya's Fun School, aka Time For Joya (1970)

I will freely admit I haven't seen any episodes of Joya's Fun School, or, to go by its alternate title, Time For Joya, and by the time cable TV came to upstate NY in the 70's, the series was already out of production.

Joya Sherrill had been a vocalist for jazz legend Duke Ellington, and reinvented herself with this series, which ran for 2 seasons of first-run episodes, airing on WPIX in New York, then continuing as a weekly series in reruns for an additional 10 years before signing off for good in 1982. It aired on Fridays from 1972-82, as Magic Garden ran 4 days a week in the same slot. Both shows moved to afternoons near the end of the run.

In a way, it was WPIX's answer to the more successful, long-running franchise, Romper Room. Let's take a look at an incomplete episode. Incomplete because it looks like the open is missing.

No rating.