Sunday, August 31, 2014

Looney TV: Duck Dodgers in the 241/2th Century (1952)

Chuck Jones came up with a novel parody of the sci-fi hero, Buck Rogers, by casting Daffy Duck as "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century" in a righteously hilarious classic short, released in 1952.

Dodgers is summoned to locate Planet X, and, in turn, retrieve some iludium phosdex (a shaving cream atom---don't ask). Ah, but the Martians have other ideas. You know how this goes.

51 years later, after a sequel had been released, Dodgers would return, this time in a TV series for Cartoon Network, which lasted two seasons, and boasted a theme song performed by Tom Jones and the Flaming Lips (!). Too bad CN and Boomerang can't be bothered to dust the show off again just for kicks and giggles. For now.

Rating: A.

Daytime Heroes: Extreme Dinosaurs (1997)

Earlier this week, we discussed DIC/Bohbot's mid-90's series, Street Sharks. After that series ended its 3 year run, it cleared the way for a spin-off borne during its final season.

Extreme Dinosaurs wasn't DIC's 1st attempt at sentient dinos, of course, as this came a decade after Dinosaucers. The other common link between the two shows was that you had two groups from another world at war on Earth. The Raptors want to reconfigure our world to resemble theirs. The Dino Vengers, as our heroes were known initially, intend to prevent that from happening.

I didn't see much of this in its original run, so there won't be a rating. To tie you over, here's the opener.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Seven Little Superheroes (1981)

From Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends:

One of Spider-Man's oldest foes, the Chameleon, surfaces to create confusion and chaos, laying a trap for the Spider-Friends and special guests Shanna, Dr. Strange, Captain America, & the Sub-Mariner in a loose adaptation of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. Here's "Seven Little Superheroes":

Ya know, pilgrims, I have 0 memory of seeing this episode, so there ain't a rating to be had.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Encyclopedia Brown (1989)

As a kid, I read Donald J. Sobel's Encyclopedia Brown series of paperbacks, usually on loan from the public library. Just couldn't get enough of the brilliant pre-teen son of a suburban police chief who, much like Sherlock Holmes, didn't need too many clues to solve cases.

So imagine my surprise when I'd read in the late 80's that the series was being adapted for television. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was being produced for HBO instead of the broadcast networks.


How could the broadcast networks pass on this? Here was a kid who was on a par with the inestimable Holmes as a crime solver par excellence, and his adventures are airing on H-freakin'-BO? Sad to say, after the series ran its course, it simply faded away. Virtually the entire series was released on VHS, but hasn't seen a DVD release, and the 25th anniversary of the series is next year.

Series director "Savage" Steve Holland had previously worked on Fox's New Adventures of Beans Baxter (see, I knew he'd done something for primetime), and would later develop Eek! The Cat for the network (previously reviewed). He's worked with Nickelodeon on some of their current series in recent years, but it's been a while since he's actually done anything that's really gotten any buzz.

To give you some idea, let's visit the fictional city of Idaville for "The Case of the Burgled Baseball Cards", with guest stars Edy Williams & G. Gordon Liddy.

Today, the books are still being published, even though Sobel passed away some years back. Personally, I'd let Encyclopedia and his partner-in-peril, Sally Kimball, grow up and fall in love, and.......!

No rating, obviously.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Literary Toons: Oliver & The Artful Dodger (1972)

Here's a 2-part installment of ABC's Saturday Superstar Movie, which, admittedly, I've wanted to see for a long time.

"Oliver & The Artful Dodger" is a loose adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. While Dickens had cast Jack Dawkins, alias the Artful Dodger (Michael Bell, in his first job for Hanna-Barbera), as a pickpocket with a heart of gold, this version sees Dodger and his friends in a more benevolent light, rescuing a little girl from the workhouse.

I must confess I haven't seen this at all, and it was only released on VHS in the 80's, but has not yet merited a DVD release, more than 40 years after its premiere. All I know about the story is a song from its most famous adaptation, the musical, "Oliver!". "Consider Yourself" was played in music class when I was in 6th grade.

Our cast also includes Richard Dawson (ex-Hogan's Heroes) and Jon (billed as John) Walmsley (The Waltons).

Anyway, grab some popcorn, a smoothie, and enjoy the show:

No rating.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tooniversary: Street Sharks (1994)

Street Sharks started with a 3-part miniseries in 1994, which was good enough to merit a full season run the following fall. That "full" season, billed as season 2, lasted 10 episodes, while the third and final season had a whopping 27 for a final total of 40, which would be the standard number for DIC's future projects.

An aquatic copycat, if you will, of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was slowly nearing the end of its 1st TV run at the time, the Sharks are 4 brothers searching for their missing father, who, like them, was mutated after being double-crossed by his corrupt partner, Dr. Paradigm, later renamed Dr. Piranoid, since his DNA was crossed with a piranha. While dear old dad was never seen again, the Sharks would gain some allies in the course of the series. Near the end of the run, a 2nd team was introduced in the Dino Vengers, who were spun off into their own series, under the title, Extreme Dinosaurs, which lasted 1 season.

Syndicated by Bohbot for DIC, Street Sharks didn't air on Saturdays, but rather, was placed on Friday mornings in some cities. The series also netted the predictable comics tie-in, in this case from Archie Comics, which was running a series based on the Turtles cartoons at the time. Two three issue series were published, and have not been collected in trade paperback form since.

From season 3, here's the episode, "To Shark or Not to Shark":

As we've previously documented, DIC produced a pair of live-action series that were ripoffs of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, so it shouldn't surprise anyone they'd try something like this, too. A toy line was issued near the end of the run in 1997, but didn't go very far.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saturtainment: Mad Jack The Pirate (1998)

Get ready to meet the world's worst pirate.

Mad Jack The Pirate lasted just 1 season on Fox, but was enough of a success overseas that it's been released on DVD everywhere but in the US, insofar as I know. Go figure, right? Anyway, series creator Bill Kopp (ex-Eek! The Cat, Toonsylvania) voices the title character, who, despite his myopic self-esteem, is really a coward at heart. Captain Hook would disavow any knowledge of inspiring this clown and his sidekick, Snuk (Billy West). Saban was Fox's primary provider of children's programming at the time, and, as previously documented, fumbled the ball the very next year with a pair of Marvel properties (Spider-Man Unlimited & Avengers: United We Stand), which was the beginning of the end of their association with the network.

Never saw the show, so there won't be a rating, but for your edification and entertainment (your actual mileage may vary), we have a sample episode:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Literary Toons: The first episode of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1967)

Here's the series premiere of Filmation's adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which aired on ABC from 1967-70. All the voices are performed by just three actors: Jane Webb, Ted Knight, & Pat Harrington, Jr., whose voice for Alec McEwen sounds like Ray "Atom" Palmer (Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure) that same 1st season.

Here's "Arena of Fear":

Fox owns the rights to the series, so it's on them to release it on DVD.

Rating: A.

Looney TV: Daffy Duck meets Drew Carey (1998)

Talk about stunt casting!

For the season 3 finale of The Drew Carey Show, Carey and co-executive producer Bruce Helford decided they wanted to test out the lunatic---or, maybe that should be, loonatic?---fringe, so Daffy Duck (voice of Joe Alaskey) comes looking for a job. Oh, sure, it's awkward, especially when Daffy tries plying his charms on Mimi (Kathy Kinney).........

Of course, Daffy didn't get the job. What did you expect?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Toonfomercial: Fred Flintstone for Welch's Grapeade (1964)

TV Toy Memories serves up this long missing ad for Welch's Grapeade. Fred Flintstone (Alan Reed) & Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc) are finishing a round of golf, when Fred decides to get some refreshment. Not sure if it's Blanc or Don Messick as the salesman. The video begins with a clip from Space Ghost, from what I can tell.

Unfortunately, Welch's doesn't make this anymore.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Summer Breeze (1972)

From High Desert Soul and The Midnight Special comes an acoustic performance of Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze". This also appears on my other blog, The Land of Whatever:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Eek! The Cat (1992)

Eek! The Cat was one of Fox's early Saturday morning stars. The series lasted 5 seasons, undergoing a couple of title and format changes along the way.

Co-creator Bill Kopp voiced Eek and was actively involved with the series for the first three seasons, leaving after season 3 to work for Disney, which eventually acquired the rights to this series. The whole idea was that Eek was a humble, selfless sort who tries to help others in need, but often suffers physical punishment as a result.

Season 2 brought The Terrible Thunderlizards, a trio of dinosaur mercenaries, as a backup feature. Season 4 saw the debut of Klutter, which was animated by Film Roman, while the rest was done at Canada's Nelvana studio. However, Klutter was gone after 1 season. The Thunderlizards were supposed to have been there from the get-go, it seems, but there were production delays that stalled their debut. We'll look at them another time.

I never watched the show, so there's no rating.

Here, though, is a sample episode:

Eek also welcomed celebrity guests, including crossovers with other Fox series, specifically The X-Files, as David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson appeared as agents Mulder & Scully. Have to see if that episode is available.

Friday, August 15, 2014

You Know The Voice: Casey Kasem on The Dating Game (1967)

From LiteFavorites and the primetime version of The Dating Game comes an interesting offering.

The one big difference between the primetime series and its daytime counterpart was that producer Chuck Barris would routinely use celebrity guests either as bachelors/bachelorettes or contestants on the night edition, although I think it was daytime only on ABC by the time the likes of Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on the show in the 70's. Anyway, in 1967, it was an eclectic mix that included comedians Groucho Marx, Don Rickles, and, in the following video, Bill Dana, whose Jose Jiminez persona fueled his self-titled sitcom, and, as host Jim Lange helpfully notes, Dana was working on Milton Berle's variety show at the time as a producer. The lineup also included Batgirl herself, Yvonne Craig. This same video has Dana competing with an up and coming icon in the music business, none other than Casey Kasem, who was at the time hosting Dick Clark's regionally produced Shebang. For Casey, this was, as far as I know, his national television debut. You can tell Dana was there strictly for laughs, making it almost obvious who would end up with the date.

Edit: 7/28/15: The video has been deleted due to a copyright claim placed by Sony Pictures Television, current rights holder.

Yes, as Lange notes in introducing Casey, the future king of the countdowns was doing movies at the time, and 4 years later, he'd get his most significant role in "The Incredible Two Headed Transplant", with ex-Munsters co-star Pat Priest. Suffice it to say, he fared much better in that case.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: A complete episode of Birdman & the Galaxy Trio (1967)

The aptly named Cartoon has served up a nearly full (well, sans bumpers and, of course, commercials of the day) episode of Birdman. What you'll get:

Birdman in "Quake Effect": The Solar Sentinel (Keith Andes) tries to stop a mad scientist (Is there no other kind?) from unleashing man-made earthquakes.

Galaxy Trio vs. "The Moltens of Meteorus": The Trio visit the homeworld of Meteor Man (Ted Cassidy), only to discover a race of lava men attempting to overthrow the surface government. Ironically, 10 years later, Cassidy would revisit this plot, but on the other side, when he made his first guest appearance on The All-New Super Friends Hour in the episode, "Invasion of the Earthors".

Birdman in "Avenger For Ransom": Duh, Avenger, Birdman's sidekick, is abducted. The crooks want some important defense secrets. Y'think maybe there's any doubt to how this'll end?

If some of the incidental background music sounds familiar, H-B had been recycling it for 3 years by this point. Too bad they didn't have the creative energy to compose new material........

Rating: B+.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Woman hits Egypt (Pyramids of Terror, 1979)

I think part of the reason Spider-Woman was cancelled after just 1 season was because it was separated from the rest of the superhero cartoons on ABC's schedule in 1979. The network placed Scooby & Scrappy-Doo in between Plastic Man and Spider-Woman, which proved to be a momentum killer for action fans. This theory is likely to add fuel to the fire for all those Scrappy haters, but how else to explain how DePatie-Freleng's last series before being sold to Marvel could be such a flop?

One other explanation might be the producers decided to give Jessica Drew (Joan Van Ark, Knots Landing), the alter ego of Spider-Woman, a job in journalism, like Peter (Spider-Man) Parker, except she is the publisher of the fictional Justice magazine, while Peter has been a photographer for the Daily Bugle, going so far away from Jessica's true comics origins, which had been, ah, spun 2 years earlier.

Anyway, Spider-Man returned to Saturday mornings to welcome his distaff counterpart to ABC, but he needs her help to get out of the "Pyramids of Terror".

I remember seeing this when it first aired, and, at the time, I felt this was a little cheesy. Unfortunately, it'd be that way for much of the series.

Rating: B.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturtainment: The Pet Set (1971)

In the early 1970's, it seemed as though the syndicated landscape was welcoming just about anything. For example, Wally Bruner left What's My Line? for the how-to series, Wally's Workshop, though Line announcer Johnny Olsen announced for Bruner on the short-lived series as well.

And, then, there's The Pet Set.

Two years before joining The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where she'd win 2 Emmy awards, Betty White hosted & co-produced (with husband Allen Ludden) this 1 year entry, in which she invited many of her Hollywood friends to bring their pets, be they dogs, cats, birds, or whatever, onto the show. It was, on a national level, equivalent to the similar shows produced in different parts of the country. Where I live, there had been a long-running Sunday morning show, Pets on Parade, which ran during the 60's & 70's before being cancelled. Today, the ABC affiliate in my district runs a short feature during the late afternoon news 5 days a week, mostly as an infomercial for the local humane society, since many of the pets are strays looking for homes.

I'm digressing. As I noted, Pet Set lasted just one year, but wasn't lacking in star power.

Edit, 3/9/22: Have to change the video. Here is an excerpt from 1972 with Eva Gabor (ex-Green Acres):

Rating: A.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Game Time: That's My Dog (1993)

Not long ago, we took a look at the Family Channel's short-lived Baby Races, which, in essence, was a reboot of a failed 1967 ABC daytime game, The Baby Game. Producer Richard Sherman was also responsible for another Fam game that was paired with Races on weekends, and managed to last a wee bit longer.

That's My Dog went through two hosts during the course of its run. Steve Skrovan (Totally Hidden Video) was the MC during the first season, but was replaced by second generation comic Wil Shriner, who was developing a solid reputation as a great game player on daytime TV. Unfortunately, Shriner wasn't given another game show gig to host after Dog was cancelled. Take a look at the sample episode provided by Jared Oswald, and see if you can figure out why that is, because I sure can't.

Forgive the poor quality of the video. Oswald must've uploaded this after transferring it from VHS to DVD. An inexact science, you know.

Rating: C.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On The Air: The 7D (2014)

Of late, Disney has been rebooting classic fairy tales for new audiences. In the movies, Rapunzel was adapted into "Tangled". The Snow Queen became "Frozen". Perhaps it's to protect themselves in terms of copyrights, and, so far, it's worked.

And so it is that their latest reboot was made for television. The beloved Seven Dwarves now have their own series, albeit as The 7D.

DisneyXD is pushing this show pretty hard this summer, as it airs weekday mornings as well as on Sundays. That's how much they believe in the series. Factor in 2 former WB producers from that studio's rebirth in the 90's, Sherri Stoner and Tom Ruegger, and you have a formula for a whimsical half hour that works for every member of the family.

The only quibble I have is in how the guys are now dressed. Too colorful, almost like a troupe of clowns. Yes, they now look much younger than they did in "Snow White & the Seven Dwarves" in 1937, but, then, I read somewhere that this is supposed to be some kind of prequel to that classic.

Anyway, the 7D are always on call for the Queen of Jollywood, foiling the plots of the husband & wife sorcerers, the Glooms, to take over the kingdom. Mrs. Gloom's voice is done by singer Kelly Osbourne in her cartoon debut. Whoopi Goldberg (The View) is heard as the Magic Mirror, but otherwise the cast is comprised of the usual voice-over standouts, such as Maurice LaMarche, Scott Menville, and Dee Bradley Baker.

Here's the open. Full episodes are not yet available on YouTube:

Parents, once your kids are used to these dwarves, ya might wanna grab a DVD of "Snow White" to show them how they used to look. They'll love it.

Rating: A.

Saturtainment: California Dreams (1992)

NBC got back into the pre-fab pop game in 1992, and, as it turned out, California Dreams was the most successful entry in that genre.

After 2 seasons of Banana Splits (1968-70) and 1 for the Bay City Rollers (1978-9), NBC went to producer Peter Engel (Saved By The Bell) with the idea of developing a family sitcom that was also about an aspiring pop group.

In the first season, that's exactly what California Dreams was, putting equal emphasis on family and music. However, some network suits decided after the first season that they were changing the format, and ditched the family aspect. In all, Dreams ran for 4 seasons, and later enjoyed a short rerun run in syndication. Jimmy Fallon was able to get some of the cast/band members back together on Late Night in 2010, but since then, there's been no interest in a revival, even as the 20th anniversary of the series has come & gone.

Here's the 1st season intro:

No rating. Didn't follow the show enough to form an opinion.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Guardian Bob (Reboot, 1994)

CGI (Computer Graphic Imaging) was a new concept in animation in the middle 90's, and it took a Canadian studio to bring the first computer-animated Saturday morning cartoon to the US.

Reboot was imported in 1994, and spent 2 seasons on ABC, which was forced, really, to cancel the show after the network was acquired by Disney, and slowly began to refill the schedule with Disney programming.

The series was built around Guardian Bob, who was in charge of defending the Mainframe (which was also the name of the studio that produced the show) from the evil Megabyte. Bob's two closest allies are a brother-sister duo, Dot & Enzo, the latter of whom later becomes a Guardian himself, but American audiences didn't get to see it. After a year in syndication, which I didn't know about because Reboot wasn't picked up by any of the local stations in my district, the series was taken off American airwaves, seemingly for good.

There was merchandising to be had, not just action figures, but also trading cards. Fleer, later absorbed by Upper Deck, obtained a license and produced 1 set of cards based on the show. You'd be hard pressed to find them today.

Following is the opener, "The Tearing":

To be honest with you, I wasn't really that into the show, though I did watch a few episodes during the ABC run.

Rating: B-.