Monday, November 30, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Santa & the Three Bears (1970)

If it looks like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, that doesn't mean it is.

Some H-B staffers, including Tony Benedict and Walt Peregoy, spun off on their own to produce Santa & the Three Bears, which was released to theatres in 1970. Two of the voice actors also were on the H-B payroll, particularly Hal Smith (ex-The Andy Griffith Show) and Jean VanderPyl (ex-The Flintstones, The Jetsons).

A park ranger (Smith) is recruited by a kindly mother bear (VanderPyl) to play Santa to entertain her cubs and teach them about Christmas.

To think that 10 years later, we'd see H-B try out Yogi Bear wearing Santa's garb........

Rating: B.

On DVD: Challenge of the Super Friends (1978)

We have discussed Challenge of the Super Friends before, but now we're taking a look at the complete season DVD.

All 16 episodes with the Legion of Doom are included, but that's only half the show. The other half is a continuation from the previous season's format, to give the Wonder Twins something to do. When the series was broken down into half-hour increments for syndication, those episodes were kept to the side, since the LOD episodes were much more popular with comics fans.

However, there are some flaws in the writing of some of these stories, as well as some artistic gaffes. Take for example the episode, "Secret Origins of the Super Friends". Lex Luthor (Stan Jones) schemes to erase Superman, Wonder Woman, & Green Lantern from existence, and for a time, he succeeds. Problem is, and the writers completely whiffed on this point, with Superman gone pro tempore, his imperfect clone, Bizarro, should've been erased as well, because without the Man of Steel, there is no Bizarro.

As we noted in reviewing "History of Doom", Giganta (Ruth Forman) was originally a foe of Wonder Woman, but with the Cheetah (Marianne Aragon) already in the fold, the producers, ignoring the fact that Superman & Batman both had multiple foes on the Legion's roster, decided to assign Giganta to made-for-TV hero Apache Chief, as denoted in the show's opening sequence. The problem with that is, Giganta was attired in the same jungle gear she had in the books.

Funny thing: when Hanna-Barbera was commissioned by NBC to produce 2 live-action specials, they eventually posited Giganta as a girlfriend of the Atom. In the books, that would eventually happen, but not with the Atom we knew (Ray Palmer), but his successor, Ryan Choi. Like, who knew?

The documentary feature, Saturdays, Sleeping Bags, & Super Friends, has comments from comics creators such as Paul Dini, Alex Ross, and DC editor Dan DiDio (who can't write his way out of a paper bag). Whee.

Edit, 2/11/19: Unfortunately, the documentary has been deleted by Dailymotion due to a copyright claim from an international rights holder that is not WB. Instead, we're subbing in the series intro:

In essence, Dini and Bruce Timm and company reinvented the LOD as the DCAU's version of the Secret Society on Justice League Unlimited nearly 30 years later, but with a larger roster to match the Justice League's, and missing some original LOD members. Not to be confused with the pro wrestling Legion of Doom, which was condensed down to its most iconic members, the Road Warriors, in the 80's.

Looking back now, with the series 3 years away from its 40th anniversary, it's easier to see some of the mistakes the writers made, leaving fans to consider how it could've been done better.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rare Treats: King Arthur (1974)

Several months back, we served up a rarely seen Filmation pilot, Dick Digit, and perhaps the only reason he never made it to air might've been because the titular hero, being small in size, was too close to DC's Atom, who'd been licensed to Filmation as part of a rotating series of backup features behind Aquaman.

Roughly around the same time, Filmation tried an adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, which would've been the first series to adapt the Knights of the Round Table in an adventure series. Ken Sobol, principal writer for Journey to the Center of the Earth, which premiered in 1967, and Fantastic Voyage (1968), wrote this pilot, in which Arthur (Marvin Miller, the voice of Aquaman) must rescue Princess Guenivere (Jane Webb) from the Black Knight. Webb would also voice Morgaine Le Fey, and subsequently recycle the Le Fey voice for Catwoman (The Batman-Superman Hour).

Most scholars claim this was made in 1967. However, there are a few clues that suggest that this was later, even though the copyright date looks like it was made around 1964 or '65. I'm guessing that the cartoon was actually made well before the studio signed the contract to adapt the DC heroes (Superman, Batman, etc.), but it remained in the vaults until Filmation established itself on the air. Additionally, this would be the first instance where director Hal Sutherland's signature appeared on screen, as well as the circular credit of producers Norm Prescott & Lou Scheimer. These particular items didn't begin to appear on Filmation programs until 1969 (i.e. Hardy Boys). Finally, Webb didn't make her official debut with Filmation until 1967 (Journey to the Center of the Earth), and remained with the studio until 1977.

Edit, 12/1/15: I've since been apprised that the copyright date is 1974, which meant this project took 7 years to complete. Many thanks to Doz Hewson for providing some assistance.

Now, let's scope out King Arthur:

Edit, 11/16/19: I've located a still of an animation cel:

Image result for King Arthur Filmation pilot"

While the artists weren't credited, the linework seems to be an attempt to emulate the work of Hal Foster of Prince Valiant fame. One wonders if Foster wasn't somehow involved in the production of this piece.

Rating: A.

Countdown to Christmas: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Year by year, the iconic Christmas specials of our youth are approaching milestone anniversaries. Last year, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Rankin-Bass version, that is, turned 50. A Charlie Brown Christmas hits the big 5-0 this year, and next year, that anniversary is for Chuck Jones' adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Grinch was one of Jones' last projects for MGM, and was sold to CBS in 1966. What some of you might not know is that Seuss himself (Ted Geisel) co-wrote some of the music with Albert Hague, who is better known to viewers of a later generation for his acting on the original series version of Fame in the 80's. Horror legend Boris Karloff, who had transitioned to television in the latter half of his career, and was a couple of years removed from the end of his NBC series, Thriller, narrates and gives voice to the Grinch.

Edit, 9/25/19: The video has been deleted. In its place, we present a small little trailer....

Grinch was also the 1st Seuss story to be adapted for television, as Horton Hears a Who, the 2nd & last MGM Seuss special, had previously been adapted as a theatrical cartoon some years earlier. However, it's been 20 years since any of Seuss' stories had been brought to the small screen, with the Grinch, the Lorax, and the Cat in the Hat having all been redone in feature film form, with only Lorax avoiding the stigma of a live-action adaptation. Of course, the Cat has been a part of a pair of children's series, more recently for PBS.

Rating: A-.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Hong Kong Phooey battles car & jewel thieves (1974)

Featured on Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 70's, Volume 1, here is the series premiere of Hong Kong Phooey.

The kung-fu kanine (Scatman Crothers) goes after "Car Thieves" in the first short, with Allan Melvin (All In The Family) using his Drooper voice from Banana Splits as a used car dealer victimized by the crooks. In the second episode, "Zoo Story", Phooey gets help from a kidnapped kangaroo to foil jewel thieves.

Edit, 4/22/20: The video has been deleted.

While Phooey is billed as a superhero, he behaves more like a costumed version of bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart. Don Adams would one-up the ante by being cast as Inspector Gadget, a clueless, bumbling cyborg sleuth with some of Smart's qualities, nearly a decade later.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Two-Ton Tessie (1968)

The Banana Splits are shown in this re-edited and mostly remastered season 1 video for their cover of Gene Pitney's "Two-Ton Tessie" doing what they do best, which is to say, riding around in their Banana Buggies and just having fun.

The poster patched this together, pointing out that the video was re-edited when the original hour-long episodes were chopped into half-hours for syndication. He's not sure if he has everything back where it's supposed to be. Just sayin'.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saturtainment: Saturday Morning Live (1982)

After Match Game ended its CBS and syndicated runs, Gene Rayburn returned home to New York, where he'd begun his career, and returned, if you will, to his Saturday morning roots.

We previously chronicled the lone Goodson-Todman Saturday morning entry that Rayburn hosted, Choose Up Sides, which began his association with NBC. In 1982, Gene was hired by WNEW (now WNYW) to host a magazine show, Saturday Morning Live, which lasted about a shade more than a year before being cancelled, which freed Rayburn to return to Hollywood for not only the ill-fated Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, but also an unsold pilot for Australian producer Reg Grundy, Party Line.

This was just something different. Rayburn interviewing guests, and not a single temptation to pull out his "Old Man Periwinkle" persona from Match Game, that I know of. I barely remember this show, much less any memory of seeing it, so, once again, there is no rating. What we can do, however, is offer a sample from a December 1982 show.

Toon Sports: Oban Star-Racers (2006)

Here's another short-lived series that aired on Jetix/Toon Disney. Amazingly, Oban Star-Racers, set some 70-odd years into the future, lasted just 1 season. Seems to be a trend, doesn't it?

A collaborative effort between Japanese & French studios, Star-Racers is built around a 15 year old girl who escapes from a private boarding school to locate her father. He doesn't remember her, so she takes a job as a mechanic with his racing team, then ends up modifying a craft when a key pilot on the team is downed by injury.

Never saw the show, so there's no rating. We'll leave you with the intro:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes (maybe): Get Ed (2005)

Get Ed was an American-Canadian CGI series that aired on ABC Family's Jetix block for 1 season (2005-6). Set in the future, Ed, the title character, was a genetically engineered teenage cyber-sleuth employed by a courier service.

This was one of the first series that put an emphasis on the growing trend of identity theft. Too bad the lessons haven't sunk in, as people are still being victimized.

Here's the open:

There's not a lot to recommend, and the series hasn't been seen since Toon Disney's initial conversion to the current DisneyXD.

Rating: C.

Daytime Heroes: The Catillac Cats in space (1984)

Riff Raff is a dreamer. Anyone that watched him and the Catillac Cats on Heathcliff in the mid-80's knows that. So it figures that Riff decides to build a homemade satellite and launch it into space.

Here's "Space Cats":

Well, you had to expect a few bugs in the system.......!

Rating: A-.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes (?): Super Pink (1966)

It wasn't enough that DePatie-Freleng got into the superhero business with the comedy-adventure series, The Super Six, in 1966. That same year, the Pink Panther became the latest cartoon icon to parody Superman in "Super Pink".

We find that the Panther's a comics fan, and is so inspired to find himself a costume to sally forth and fight crime, with chaotic results.

In this case, the Panther should've paid more attention to the books and learned how to read the situations before him.

Rating: B.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tonto vs. the Ghost Tribe of Comanche Flats (1966)

Cartoon Jam brings forth a Tonto short from the 1966 Lone Ranger series.

Tonto (Shep Menken) tries to help a Kiowa chief (Michael Rye) overcome "The Ghost Tribe of Comanche Flats". The plot has a familiar scent to it, considering Scooby-Doo used a zillion variants, beginning in 1969.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tooniversary: Wacky & Packy in One of Our Missing Links is Missing (1975)

Time for a visit with our time tossed friends from the stone age, Wacky & Packy.

This time, the caveman and his pet mammoth (both voiced by Allan Melvin) meet up with a scientist and his dimwitted assistant. The usual chaos follows.

Melvin's voice for Packy sounds like he was impersonating Pete Puma, a relatively 3rd string Looney Tunes character, doesn't it?

Rating: B-.

Monday, November 16, 2015

You Know The Voice: Daws Butler (1960)

Well, howdy there! Didja know that one of Huckleberry Hound's biggest fans was comedy legend Groucho Marx?

Aw, shucks! Ya didn't? Gawrsh! We found all this out when Daws Butler, the voice of Huck, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, and others, was a contestant on You Bet Your Life in 1960. If you've ever wanted to know or see what Butler looked like, well, here y'are, podnuh.......

Former Milwaukee Braves manager Fred Haney, who was starting a broadcasting career that year, was also on the show, but who'd ever believe the incomparable Groucho was a fan of good ol' Huck Hound? I may have to do some research to see if Butler made any other appearances in front of the camera.

Toonfomercial: A look inside a typical refrigerator (1977)

TV Land exhumed this 1977 Arm & Hammer baking soda ad in its early days. Today, they can't be bothered.

Today, Arm & Hammer, the primary brand of Church & Dwight, is more than just baking soda. There's also laundry detergent, and Church & Dwight acquired the Spinbrush brand from Proctor & Gamble (it was originally a Crest Spinbrush) to go with---wait for it---Arm & Hammer toothpaste. The mind boggles.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Game Time: Quiz Kids (1949)

Quiz Kids began on radio in the early 40's, and transitioned to television in 1949, first airing on NBC before moving to CBS. The first TV run ended in 1953, only to be revived for a few months in 1956. It aired in primetime, as a lot of quiz shows did back in those days, presumably early in the evening so kids could watch their peers before retiring for the night.

The series has been revived here a few times and in Australia over the years, but not in the last 20-odd years. The last version, under the title Quiz Kids Challenge, was hosted by actor Jonathan Prince (ex-Throb) in 1991, and lasted one season. Before that, veteran game show host Jim McKrell (ex-Celebrity Sweepstakes) fronted the first revival in 1978. Three years later, sitcom legend Norman Lear stepped from behind the camera to host a short-flight version for CBS.

The original series, of course, was well before my time, so there won't be a rating. We'll leave you with a 1951 episode, presumably airing on CBS, with guest host Fran Allison (Kukla, Fran, & Ollie):

Literary Toons: Where's Waldo? (1991)

1991 was not a good year for DIC.

The studio sold several series to the networks, including Pro-Stars & Wishkid to NBC and the abysmal, MC Hammer-endorsed Hammerman to ABC. They had taken over the rights to Alvin & the Chipmunks from Ruby-Spears and that series, now rechristened Chipmunks Go To The Movies, was finishing its run on Fox. All of those shows were gone at the end of the season, and so was Where's Waldo?, their adaptation of Martin Handford's children's books.

Waldo was a global phenomenon, known as Wally in the UK, for example, but the concept remained the same. The hero would be on different adventures, and the young readers were challenged to find him in a crowded area or some other contrivance. Townsend Coleman, who also worked on Pro-Stars, voiced Waldo.

Unfortunately, the only episodes available are of the British variety, hence he'll be known as Wally in this sample episode.

So, why did it fail here? CBS made the mistake of scheduling Where's Waldo? opposite NBC's top-rated Saved by the Bell. Ballgame over.

No rating.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Rein-Toon-Ation: Gulliver in The Dark Sleep (1968)

Time to check in on 1968's Adventures of Gulliver, which, along with the Arabian Knights & Three Musketeers segments on Banana Splits, marked the end of Hanna-Barbera's first era of adventure.

In "The Dark Sleep", Captain Leech (John Stephenson) enlists the aid of an old witch, who creates a sleeping potion, intent on eliminating Gary Gulliver (Jerry Dexter) so Leech can steal the treasure map. However, Flirtacia (Ginny Tyler) ends up getting the potion instead, and so Gary and friends have to find the antidote.......

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: In Blackest Night (Justice League, 2001)

From the first season of Justice League:

A galactic tribunal convenes to place Green Lantern John Stewart (Phil LaMarr, MadTV) on trial for the destruction of a neighboring planet. Despite his teammates' willingness to defend him, Stewart convinces himself he's guilty. Uh-oh.......

At the heart of the problem is a classic JLA foe, Kanjar Ro (Rene Auberjonois, ex-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Benson), who is a witness for the prosecution, but that ain't all. Flash (Michael Rosenbaum, Smallville) decides to be GL's defense attorney, but he comes off more as comedy relief, as his stall tactics epically fail.

Luckily, the truth comes out at the end.....!

Rating: A.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman battles the Mechanical Monsters (1941)

It's been some time since we plumbed the Golden Age of Superman, and by that, of course, we mean Max & Dave Fleischer's adaptation of the Man of Steel.

This time, Superman (Bud Collyer) battles a mad scientist's "Mechanical Monsters". Self-explanatory, don't ya think?

Courtesy of Internet Archive:

Edit, 9/19/21: Now, we have a remastered version in 4D on YouTube:

Co-authors Isadore Sparber & Seymour Kneitel did their homework, to be sure, but Sparber is better known for humor, and Kneitel was mostly a producer than a writer, from what I remember.

Rating: A.

From Primetime to Daytime: The Tale of Many Faces (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, 2000)

Identity theft has become a very serious crime in recent times. In the final season of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the next-to-last episode of the series served as a teaching tool of a sort.

In "The Tale of Many Faces", a struggling young woman finds herself entangled in a web of deceit and deception, trapped by an evil witch, Madame Visage, who has created a theater group from unsuspecting girls whose faces have been stolen and forced to work for Visage.

Also available at The Land of Whatever:

A good way to start Friday the 13th, don't you think?

Rating: B.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

On The Air: wabbit-A Looney Tunes Production (2015)

A year and a half after it'd been originally announced by Cartoon Network, the Looney Tunes gang returns in an all-new series. That's the good news.

The bad news is that wabbit-A Looney Tunes production suffers from the same problem as fellow frosh Be Cool, Scooby-Doo in that the character designs on some of the beloved icons don't look right. Considering I've only seen a small sample, it may not be entirely fair to judge on that sample alone, but seeing Yosemite Sam (Maurice LaMarche) missing some teeth, and being portrayed as even more of a bumbling oaf than before, troubles me.

For example, in the short, "World Wide Wabbit", Sam escapes jail to rob a bank, only to find that, in this modern era, the bank he's picked has one singular ATM machine, a satirical commentary on the gradual erosion of the human element in this kind of business. Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman), as usual, plays Sam like a fiddle, but at the end of the day, the attempts to domesticate Sam as a well-meaning-but-bumbling neighbor on The Looney Tunes Show came off better. Yes, they needed to update Sam for the 21st century, but not like this.

While I haven't seen Gossamer, the big red monster from the last series, his potential replacement is a child-like, brown-furred Bigfoot. Bugs tries to be a mentor to the kid, but it frustrates him that Bigfoot isn't learning as quickly or as well as he should. Gossamer, at least, was fun to have around.

Each "episode" is the now-standard-for-CN 15 minutes, meaning they can cram 4 shorts into a half-hour, which is good, but the pacing isn't up to the standard of the classic shorts. And does Bugs have to be in every short? I don't know.

All we can provide for now is a promo ad from CN:

Luckily, the jabronies behind Be Cool and Teen Titans Go! (i.e. Michael Jelenic) aren't involved in this show. Former comics artist Gary Hartle, who had worked on Johnny Bravo as a producer, is in that capacity here. Boomerang has the show airing in primetime, which isn't good, considering the options on the broadcast networks on a given night. CN had it in a early evening berth, but it's currently on hiatus there.

Rating: B-.

You Know The Voice: Joan Alexander (1954)

If you ever wondered what actress Joan Alexander, the radio and cartoon voice of Lois Lane, looked like, well, look no further than The Name's The Same, a Goodson-Todman game show that aired on ABC for 4 years (1951-5), and went through a few moderators (hosts) during that period, including Robert Q. Lewis, Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding (Bob & Ray), and Dennis James, in one of his first TV gigs.

As we previously noted, the voice of Superman himself, Bud Collyer, was also on the Goodson-Todman payroll, as host and co-producer of Beat The Clock and, later, as moderator of To Tell The Truth.

Right now, let's take a look at a clip from the Lewis era, with special guest Steve Allen.

A more detailed review of Name will be at The Land of Whatever.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On DVD: Hey There, It's Yogi Bear (1964)

For their first feature film, Hanna-Barbera went with Yogi Bear, whose first series was out of production. Back in those days, the hook to an animated movie, in order to keep the kids interested, and to get the family involved, was to load up on musical numbers. Disney did that with "Cinderella" and "Peter Pan", among others.

In "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear", there are quite a few musical numbers, some of them written by Doug Goodwin, who's better known for being a musical director for DePatie-Freleng. Jazz musician Marty Paich was in charge of the music for this one, giving Hoyt Curtin, H-B's long time musical patriarch, a break.

Spring has sprung at Jellystone Park, which, as we find out, is situated somewhere near the Rocky Mountains. Boo Boo (Don Messick) awakens first, prompted by morning dew in his ear. Boo Boo races across the road to Yogi's cave. It takes some time, but Yogi (Daws Butler) is finally awake, and up to his usual tricks, which raises the ire of Ranger John Smith (Messick). Well, Yogi's whole personality was modeled after Phil Silvers' Sgt. Bilko, as was Top Cat. Frustrated because Smith is on to his usual reams, Yogi decides to try to bluff the ranger into shipping him out. Incredibly, Smith calls the bluff, and decides to send Yogi to San Diego's zoo. However, Yogi doesn't leave just yet. Another bear, Corn Pone (Hal Smith, The Andy Griffith Show) convinces Yogi to let him take his place and head west.

And, then, there is Cindy Bear (Julie Bennett), who is smitten with Yogi. Under the impression that Yogi is gone, Cindy schemes to join him in San Diego, but the plot backfires when, as Smith later explains to Boo Boo, the San Diego Zoo doesn't need a second bear, so Cindy's off to St. Louis.

However, the train carrying Cindy hits a bump in the road, and Cindy, cage & all, falls out of the train, and into the laps of the down-on-their-luck Chizzle Brothers, whose circus needs a new star. Unfortunately, Grifter (Mel Blanc) is desperate to keep business going, so he abuses Cindy, with the aid of his dog, Mugger (Messick provides an all-too-familiar wheezing laugh, recycled for Muttley, Precious Pupp, & Mumbly, while Blanc does the grumbling). Smith finds out Yogi is still at Jellystone, long enough for him to let slip that he shipped Cindy out, but now she's lost. Yogi finally takes action, and takes Boo Boo with him.

For the DVD release, WB edited out the Columbia Pictures logo (Columbia distributed the movie), jumping right to the start of the film.

Here's a trailer, back when it was distributed through Turner Pictures:

A second performer, Bill Lee, was the singing voice for Yogi on other songs in the film.

Part of the reason it took so long, until the 2011 "Yogi Bear" CGI/live action movie, to do another film with Yogi might've been because using some tired gags from the shorts, plus borrowing from other sources (i.e. Tex Avery), masked how thin the plot really was.

Rating: B--.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Toons After Dark: It's Magic, Charlie Brown (1981)

One of the cool things about Peanuts was that Snoopy was accepted as one of the gang, instead of being Charlie Brown's dog. This allowed for creator Charles Schulz to put Snoopy in some very unusual situations.

1981's "It's Magic, Charlie Brown" is just one of those situations. Rebuked by Charlie for doing little more than eating & sleeping, Snoopy is sent to the library, as Charlie loans him his library card. Snoopy gets a book on magic, and, of course, chaos follows.

Unsurprisingly, a familiar trope to fans of the strip appears, as Snoopy quiets a heckler not once, but twice, early in his act as "The Great Houdini".

Edit, 12/9/21: The video was deleted by Wildbrain, which has a share of the rights. However, Dailymotion has a copy:

Actress Sydney Penny, who voiced Lucy this time around, would go on to a modest film & television career, and if I'm not mistaken, is the only one in this cast who did so.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tonto in Day at Death's Head Pass (1966)

Cartoon Jam has unearthed another installment from Jack Wrather & Format Films' 1966 Lone Ranger animated series.

Tonto (Shep Menken) fights alone against a renegade soldier (Hans Conried) and his volunteer army in "Day at Death's Head Pass".

Taka, Tonto's eagle friend, was a creation of the TV show, insofar as I know.

Rating: A.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thanksgiving Toons: Jerky Turkey (1945)

Leave it to Tex Avery to find a radical way of parodying the first Thanksgiving.

"Jerky Turkey" was released by MGM in April, 1945, a full 7 months before Thanksgiving. The film is actually a commentary on the waning days of World War II.

Uploaded by the Internet Archive:

No rating.

Friday, November 6, 2015

On The Air: Sesame Street (1969)

There is but one children's program that is PBS' signature, and it's been on the air well before PBS took on its current identity.

Sesame Street launched all the way back in 1969, the same season that gave us another enduring icon in Scooby-Doo. To my knowledge, I am not sure if Scooby or anyone else from Hanna-Barbera appeared as guests (in short animated quickies) on the show, although the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) did business with H-B's biggest rival at the time, Filmation, and you've seen the fruits of those labors here in the Archives in the past with short pieces featuring Superman, Batman & Robin, and Jughead Jones.

Sesame Street is where Kermit the Frog went national, after debuting on a regional program, Sam & Friends, some years earlier. You could say that the syndicated Muppet Show is technically a spin-off, since Kermit was front and center there, but then, his creator, the late Jim Henson, had bigger plans for Kermit in the first place. We were also introduced to BFFs Bert & Ernie, the latter of whom became famous for his ode to his "Rubber Duckie". We met Oscar the Grouch, the other green Muppet, who lived inside a trash can, and The Count, a vampire who loves counting just about anything. There's Big Bird, who represents the curious child in all of us. And let's not forget the most recent icon to emerge on the Street, Elmo.

But, there is a human cast, too. Bob McGrath has been with Sesame Street seemingly forever, although I'm not sure if he's still a regular after all these years. The human portion of the cast has changed as time passes, as inevitably it must. Who hasn't learned their alphabet or how to count from watching Sesame Street.

One of my favorites from my youth was the hyperactive game show host, Guy Smiley, who should've found a home with Kermit's troupe, but nope. Haven't looked in on the Street in soooooo long.....!

Let's take a step back in time, when Kermit was posited as a reporter, checking on a long forgotten nursery rhyme.......

It used to be you could set your watch by Sesame Street. Locally, it had aired twice daily for years at 9 am & 4 pm (ET), but WMHT has changed the times over the years, and Street now airs just in the morning, I think, as PBS has more kids shows coming down the track on an annual basis.

By the way, when the show started, PBS was known by another name. National Educational Television (NET), which was changed to PBS sometime in the early 70's.

Rating: A.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thanksgiving Toons: Tom Turk & Daffy (1944)

It may look like this story's set closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving, but 1944's "Tom Turk & Daffy" might actually fit here. After all, we've had white Thanksgivings over the years.

Tom Turk is on the run from Porky Pig, dressed as a pilgrim. Daffy Duck, scantily clad (for him) in a set of earmuffs, is building a snowman, but has to curtail that activity in a vain attempt to hide Tom from Porky. Good luck with that, Daffy.

Directed by the inimitable Chuck Jones.

You knew what the outcome was going to be, didn't you, kids?

Rating: B.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Popeye in County Fair (1961)

Popeye (Jack Mercer, who also co-wrote the story) and Brutus (Jackson Beck) are competing farmers at the "County Fair". At least we now know who taught future villains how to screw up with dirty tricks........

The story goes that King Features thought Paramount owned the rights to the name, Bluto, hence the name change of the antagonist to Brutus. However, when Popeye and company returned to television through a license granted to Hanna-Barbera in 1978, Bluto was restored. Of course, the release of "Animal House" that year might have something to do with it. John Belushi's character was nicknamed "Bluto".

Rating: B.

Game Time: Couch Potatoes (1989)

Before Haim Saban's production company took off into the stratosphere, thanks to a certain Japanese franchise, Saban was importing cartoons from Japan for Nickelodeon, and trying his hand at producing game shows. You know about the short-lived NBC series, I'm Telling, but there was also a little something called Couch Potatoes, which also lasted one season (1989-90).

Nickelodeon icon Marc Summers (Double Dare) served as MC, and you can tell that Saban was ripping off MTV's Remote Control in a way, but instead of the game being played in someone's basement, the variant here is that the announcer, impressionist/voice actor Joe Alaskey, is billed as a "next door neighbor". Scheduling conflicts, I think, resulted in Alaskey departing before the series ended, replaced by former game show host and part-time actor Jim McKrell (ex-Celebrity Sweepstakes). Alaskey's only other live-action series gig was Out of This World, insofar as a I know, other than the obligatory late night yakfest bookings for his standup act. Joe's from my neck of the woods, one of a select number from the upstate corridor to hit it big in Hollywood, so we'll keep an eye open for any more of him in front of the camera.

Aside from Alaskey, Summers, and Saban, the reason this is in the Archives is, well, it could've worked better as a weekend entry. Airing 6 days a week instead of 5 might've helped Potatoes last longer. Other than that, it's a standard quiz game.

No rating.

On The Air: Vixen (2015)

It ain't enough that producer Greg Berlanti currently has 5, count 'em, 5 series on the air, with a 6th to follow this winter. Well, actually, you might say that Legends of Tomorrow would be #7, since #6 is online.

Berlanti and co-producer Marc Guggenheim are dipping into the waters of animation with Vixen, which fits in rather nicely with Arrow, The Flash, and the pending Legends. That's the good news. The bad? It's only available online via CW Seed, which is available on the network website and accessible on your mobile devices, so you have to pray that WB and corporate sibling Cartoon Network can play nice and compile these shorts to air on CN at some point. Like, you do know that eventually, reruns of Arrow & Flash will turn up on TNT unless they're outbid......!

Vixen, introduced in the comics in the late 70's during the short-lived DC Explosion, is fashion model/designer Mari McCabe, whose powers are based on a Tantu Totem, which she wears as a necklace. How she got the totem and the powers is explained in an early episode, but we won't get into that just yet. The opener is typical Berlanti-verse in that the plot includes the obligatory flashbacks that have been a Berlanti trademark, starting with Arrow (now in its 4th season), but a trope that goes way further than that. Anyway, Mari's being chased by Flash & (Green) Arrow, and, yes, Grant Gustin & Stephen Amell will be heard in these shorts. Jump cut to 3 days prior, when Mari was bailed out of jail by her foster father.

In this short clip, Guggenheim offers some insight, plus an itsy bitsy teaser......

The first episode is not on YouTube, and when you hit the share button over on the CW site, you're asked to choose between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, et al. No embedding code to be used here. Meh. We'll keep track of this now 2 month-plus series.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Literary Toons: The Smurfs in Jokey's Medecine (1981)

Let's take a little trip to the Smurfs' hidden village in the forest. Jokey's up to his usual tricks, but, then again, he's only a one-trick smurf......

Here's "Jokey's Medecine", which includes a rarely seen bumper.

You'd think the writers, including David Villaire, who scripted this story, would've figured out a way to create more diverse pranks for Jokey other than the exploding box that became his trademark. That might be part of the reason why they started adding characters four years later.......

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Adam Had 'Em (1968)

Time to check in with the Banana Splits and another track from their 1968-70 series.

This video compilation for "Adam Had 'Em" mixes in a brief clip of Precious Pupp, who would be included in the syndicated compilation package for the series.

Apparently, Bingo flunked his defensive driving course..,.....

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tooniversary: The New Adventures of Gigantor (1980-1993)

Gigantor was brought back to life in Japan in 1980, but it took 13 years for it to be imported to the US. Independent producer Fred Ladd teamed with TMS Entertainment to bring The New Adventures of Gigantor to the then-Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in 1993. Either way you slice it, the series lasted just 1 season, but Sci-Fi kept it around in repeats for 3 additional years. The difference this time, of course, was that the show was in color.

I never saw this version, so there won't be a rating. We'll leave you with the series opener:

Literary Toons: The Butter Battle Book (1989)

There hasn't been an adaptation of any of Dr. Seuss' books in some 20-odd years. The last two also marked the end of an era for the Seuss books in that they were broadcast on cable.

The Butter Battle Book premiered on TNT just in time for Thanksgiving in 1989. The Seuss family apparently had had their fill of Marvel's animation division handling their works (Marvel inherited the contract from DePatie-Freleng), and so, they turned to legendary animator Ralph Bakshi to adapt The Butter Battle Book. Charles Durning (Evening Shade) stars as the grandfather, who doubles as the narrator. The story is said to be Seuss' commentary on the Cold War, which, coincidentally, had come to an end.......

The last Seuss adaptation was Daisy-Head Mayzie, adapted by Hanna-Barbera and broadcast on TBS a few years later.

No rating.