Sunday, April 29, 2018

Daytime Heroes: WordGirl (2008)

Spun off from a regular feature on Maya & Miguel, WordGirl was granted her own series by PBS Kids in 2008.

In a way, the flash animated series is a spiritual successor to The Adventures of Letterman from the original Electric Company. However, the stories are longer, and provide valuable lessons for the target audience. In another nod, WordGirl, hailing from another world, owes some of her inspiration to----wait for it----Superman and his cousin, Supergirl.

If the narrator sounds familiar, well, it's Chris Parnell (ex-Saturday Night Live), the voice behind Progressive Insurance's annoying talking Box.

Edit, 11/23/2020: The video has been deleted. The title card will have to suffice for now.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Saturday School: Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids bond with their fathers (1973)

From season 2 of Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids:

The gang's reports about their fathers' jobs ring hollow when their teacher figures out they're exaggerating, and don't really know what their dads do for a living. Their next assignment? They go to work with their fathers for a day.

Notice the mustache & beard on Bill Cosby in the live-action segments. I think he was working on a movie at the time he taped these wraparounds.

It's unfortunate that we likely won't see these classic cartoons again on television in the wake of Cosby's conviction Thursday on sexual assault charges.

Rating: A.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Young Samson in The Curse of Montambu (1967)

Finding complete episodes of Young Samson, preferably in English, is difficult, as there isn't quite as much interest in this series as there are for the rest of the Hanna-Barbera super adventure line (1966-69).

Anyway, here's "The Curse of Montambu":

Typical fare of the period.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Looney TV: Foney Fables (1942)

Now, here's a warped take on some classic tales. Friz Freleng serves up some "Foney Fables", parodying the likes of Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, and more.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Three is a Magic Number (1973)

From Schoolhouse Rock comes "Three is a Magic Number", composed & performed by Bob Dorough.

In memory of Dorough, 94, who passed away earlier today in his home in Pennsylvania. Rest in peace, Bob. Your music touched us all.

Tooniversary: Alvie's Angels (Alvin & the Chipmunks, 1988)

For whatever reason, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. decided to switch animation studios for Alvin & The Chipmunks beginning with the 6th season (1988-9). However, if you look real close at the closing credit indicia, you'll see that Ruby-Spears, which produced the series with Bagdasarian Productions from 1983-8, still had a smaller hand, as they were credited with producing the series with Murakami-Wolf, although Joe Ruby & Ken Spears were no longer executive producers. After 11 episodes, Bagdasarian changed animation houses again, this time to DIC, and we'll cover that another time.

In the full length episode, "Alvie's Angels", the spotlight is on the Chipettes in a parody of---what else?---Charlie's Angels. A second parody, a mash-up of Angels and another Aaron Spelling classic, Starsky & Hutch, appears on television screens at the mall. After getting run over by a jewel thief, the Chipettes have a collective daydream which drives the story. Theodore is an analogue for Bosley, but where's Simon?

Edit, 12/27/19: The video has been deleted.

Apparently fearing that ratings were starting to drop, Bagdasarian may have decided, with an assist from NBC, and, later, Fox, to reformat the show to do more movie & TV satires. In fact, the final two seasons were under the title, Chipmunks Go To The Movies.

Rating: B.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Toon Rock: Meet The Dale Gribble Bluegrass Experience (King of The Hill, 2002)

Yee-haw! It should surprise, well, no one, that the soundtrack of King of The Hill would not only have pop and alternative rock, but also some serious country flavor.

Hank Hill (series creator/co-executive producer Mike Judge) and pals form a bluegrass band to support young Connie, a violin/fiddle prodigy who wants to gain a little independence from her strict father. So, the gang heads off to Branson, Missouri for a bluegrass competition. Unfortunately, as we'll see, ultra-patriotic, ultra xenophobic Dale lets his mouth get him in trouble again.

Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels, and comedian Yakov Smirnoff guest as themselves in "The Bluegrass is Always Greener".

I was half expecting Bill to request "Do The Bear", but that would be on another Fox show (i.e. Family Guy), if they wanted to try that.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Twinkles (1960)

Twinkles the Elephant not only was General Mills' newest cereal mascot in 1960, but he also appeared in short back-up segments during King Leonardo & His Short Subjects. George S. Irving, later the narrator of Underdog and a razor blade salesman, narrated, and the shorts, such as the following one, played out as if he was reading from a book, since the characters' mouths don't move all that much.

There are also some commercials for the cereal, and we'll take a dive into that another time.

Rating: B.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Toonfomercial: Remember Coco the Monkey? (1991)

In the UK, Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies are known as Coco Pops. Coco the Monkey made his debut in the UK in 1963, and was brought to the US in 1991 in between Snap, Crackle, & Pop's runs as American mascots for Cocoa Krispies.

What Kellogg's did was recycle artwork for a Coco Pops ad in the UK, and alter the lyrics to the song. Sorry, I don't know who is the voice of Coco.

Unfortunately, Coco's stay in America didn't last long, and that's a pity, since his jingles had more bounce than some of that pre-fab pop that dominated the airwaves in those days.

Friday, April 20, 2018

On The Air: Trollhunters (2016)

From the whimsical imagination of filmmaker-author Guillermo Del Toro and from comics & TV vet Marc Guggenheim (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, X-Men Gold) comes Trollhunters, a Netflix entry from Dreamworks which tells the story of a young human now tasked with protecting a race of trolls involved in an ages-old conflict.

The late Anton Yelchin ("Star Trek", "The Smurfs") was cast as Jim, the human Trollhunter, and had recorded enough material through the 2nd season before his passing in June 2016. The cast also includes some of the usual suspects (Mark Hamill, Fred Tatasciore) and some surprises, such as Kelsey Grammer (The Simpsons, ex-Gary The Rat, Cheers, Frasier) as Blinky, a 6-eyed, 4-armed troll who, along with Aaarrgh (Tatasciore, Avengers Assemble, Hulk & The Agents of SMASH, etc.), mentors Jim and his friends.

What we already know is that the series will end after the 3rd season which will stream later this year. Right now, though, scope out the trailer for season 1:

Guggenheim was in town earlier tonight, and screened the series premiere prior to being interviewed by Paul Grondahl of the NYS Writers Institute. More on that over at The Land of Whatever.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Shmoo meets The Amazing Captain Mentor (1979)

It was never explained how The New Shmoo left Al Capp's wacky backwoods village of Dogpatch (Li'l Abner) for the big city in his 1979 NBC series, but then, since Shmoo (Frank Welker) would end up in Bedrock a year later, I guess it doesn't matter, does it?

Anyway, in the series opener, Shmoo and his new friends encounter a superhero who's too good to be true. Super Friends narrator Bill Woodson guest stars as "The Amazing Captain Mentor".

Edit, 7/9/23: Had to change the video. Popular trend these days is to record the videos at an angle.

What were Hanna-Barbera & NBC thinking, using Shmoo as a Scooby-Doo rip-off, albeit with three kids instead of four? Well, blame it, I think, on NBC, being desperate for a hit.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bruno Sammartino (1935-2018)

This is a shocker.

Word just came over the wire of the passing of WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino at age 82.

Born in a small town in Italy in 1935, Bruno emigrated to the US, and found his fame with the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation as a 2-time World champion, his last reign ending at the hands of Superstar Billy Graham in 1977. Bruno rarely competed on television, and when he did, it was usually, and understandably, a main event.

Sammartino initially retired in 1981, then made a brief comeback to fight alongside his son, David, in the mid-80's, before swapping his tights & boots for an announcer's blazer. However, he had a falling out with Vince McMahon during the late 80's over the direction of the company, and some thought he'd never return. That is, until he was inducted into the Hall of Fame just a few short years ago. Sammartino's last appearance on WWE-TV was to induct his former protege and nemesis, Larry Zbyszko, into the Hall in 2015.

From 1974, here's Bruno, in a non-title match with another future Hall of Famer, Mr. Fuji, managed by the Grand Wizard of Wrestling (Ernie Roth).

Today, you wouldn't see a match end in a pinfall after a mere back body drop. That's too simple for today's promoters, McMahon included.

Rest in peace, Bruno.

Daytime Heroes: Mighty Mouse in Swiss Cheese Family Robinson (1947)

Johann Wyss' classic tale was loosely adapted by Terrytoons as a vehicle for Mighty Mouse in 1947. You'll notice, though, that some parts of "Swiss Cheese Family Robinson" have been edited for content. Keep an eye for some sudden jump cuts near the end.

Typical fare.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Getting Schooled: Mister Rogers on Sesame Street (1981)

Now, this is how you do a season finale.

As Sesame Street wrapped its 12th season in 1981, PBS, I'd imagine, arranged for Fred Rogers to make a guest appearance, interacting mostly with Big Bird (Carroll Spinney). Following is a compilation of segments from the episode, followed by the closing credits.

I am not sure if Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) ever arranged a crossover between Street and the original Electric Company during the latter's run (1971-7), but it would've been great if they did.

What do you think?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Toon Rock: I am The Very Model of a Cartoon Individual (Animaniacs, 1993)

Animaniacs turns 25 this year. Hard to believe, I know, but Warner Bros. Animation was rolling back then. Anyway, in the first season episode, "HMS Yakko", Yakko Warner (Rob Paulsen) takes the time to take a Gilbert & Sullivan piece from "The Pirates of Penzance" and turn it on its ear.....

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Toonfomercial: Remember Banana Wackies? (1965)

Now, here's a cereal that was a 1-hit wonder.

General Mills introduced Banana Wackies in 1965. Jay Ward's studio was responsible for the ads, so I'm guessing June Foray & Daws Butler are the voices heard here......

Unfortunately, the Wackies were knocked from the shelves after just a year. I never heard of them until seeing ads appear on YouTube recently.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

On DVD: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Several years ago, DC began publishing a new generation of "imaginary stories" under the heading, Elseworlds, placing familiar characters in different chronological settings.

One of these efforts was a 1-shot graphic novel, Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola. It suggested that Batman existed in 19th century Gotham City, during the Victorian era, or, more specifically, during the time of Jack the Ripper, who was a serial killer in England in those days.

What Augustyn & Mignola imagined was, what if Jack were in Gotham instead of London? Therein lies the basis for a loose adaptation of the book in a DTV released earlier this year.

The movie doesn't follow the book step by step, word for word, scene for scene. Instead, it adds new characters, some of whom are analogues for familiar names in the Bat-mythos. Bruce Timm serves as co-executive producer on what was the pentultimate project for long time producer Alan Burnett, who retired after the release of "Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay", the trailer of which is included with "Gaslight".

Bruce Greenwood, who voiced Batman on Young Justice (and presumably will return when the series does), has the honors here. Veteran actress Tara Strong applies a variant on her Harley Quinn voice for an old crone, Marlene. Anthony Stewart Head (ex-Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is heard as Alfred.

Here's a trailer:

I never really bought into the Batman Elseworlds all that much, largely because they were mostly variations on the same general theme. Just shuffle the deck, change the setting, characters, etc., but otherwise it's routine. The movie is a 77 minute thrill ride with a shocking, surprise reveal.

Rating: A.

You Know The Voice: "Underdog" shills for Salvo (1964-5)

This next item is also at The Land of Whatever.

I remember seeing Wally Cox shilling for Canada Dry's now-defunct Sport cola in the early 70's. Little did I know that this wasn't his first endorsement deal.

While Underdog was on CBS, Wally was hired to pitch Salvo detergent for Procter & Gamble.

I'm willing to guess that this ad might've slipped into some daytime programming, especially since P & G were producing soap operas back then (i.e. Search For Tomorrow, As The World Turns), and little kids, seeing Wally flex his muscles while balancing the box on his arm, and hearing the voice, would figure out he was the voice of Underdog.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Saturtainment: Motormouse & Autocat in Wheelin' & Dealin' (1969)

I think I had this Motormouse & Autocat short up before, then had to take it down when it was deleted by YouTube. Well, right now, let's scope the opener, "Wheelin' & Dealin'", which sets the tone for this Tom & Jerry clone on wheels.

Edit, 3/15/22: The video has been deleted due to a copyright claim from WB.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

You Know The Voice: Daran Norris (2018)

Most folks associate actor Daran Norris with Nickelodeon (Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Fairly Oddparents), but in addition to Ned, Daran has done some substantial "face acting" elsewhere in the course of his career, including a recurring gig on CW's iZombie, where he plays newscaster Johnny Frost.

Daran surfaced in this week's episode, which is available for streaming on the CW website if you missed the show on Monday, or On Demand (check with your cable provider). For now, scope the preview of the episode. Daran shows up about halfway through the clip:

Johnny is a far cry from dimwitted Cosmo (Fairly Oddparents), and it allows Daran to demonstrate some range as an actor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Daytime Heroes: He-Man visits Stone City (1984)

From Season 2 of Filmation's He-Man & The Masters of The Universe:

Evil-Lyn is after the riches of an ancient city, whose citizens are in a petrified state of suspended animation. She tricks King Vokan into attacking Castle Grayskull, but you know that's not going to work.....! Here's "Journey to Stone City", written by J. Michael Straczynski:

Unfortunately, the closing credits were edited off. Predictable fare.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Saturday Morning Blasphemy: The Brother Love Show (1988)

In the midst of late 80's scandals involving evangelists Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker, in particular, the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) introduced a parody of evangelists in general.

The Brother Love Show was an interview segment that first appeared on Wrestling Challenge in the winter of 1988 before being moved to Superstars of Wrestling later that summer. Behind the makeup and the exaggerated speech patterns of Brother Love was his creator, Bruce Prichard, brother of wrestler "Dr." Tom Prichard, who'd later move to WWE himself, first as a wrestler, then a commentator, before leaving in the early '00's. Prichard admitted to being more of a fan of the preacher's presentation rather than his sermons, and Brother Love served the role of an agent provocateur, siding with the heels (villains), and never showing any redeeming value.

Not too surprisingly, Brother Love would also leave himself vulnerable to embarrassment & humiliation. Case in point: A visit from Roddy Piper in 1989.

About a year and a half after this segment aired, Brother Love was gone, as Prichard left the company for a time. He last revived Brother Love back in January for the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw, but nothing had changed. He's about as entertaining as watching paint dry. In the final analysis, Brother Love was just another Piper wannabe when it came to interviews.

Rating: C-.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Toons After Dark: Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (1973)

From Rankin-Bass' Festival of Family Classics:

The Brothers Grimm's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs had been successfully adapted by Disney many years ago. Having to compress the story into a shorter time frame proved to be troublesome for Mushi Studios of Japan, entrusted with the animation for the Festival. Judge for yourselves.

The limited animation used here was more of a detriment than usual, especially near the end when the forest animals are supposed to be dancing with joy. How Australia's Air Programs International whiffed on doing their own adaptation for CBS' Famous Classic Tales, I don't know.

Rating: C. Not a good adaptation.

Saturtainment: Sunken Treasure (Run, Joe, Run, 1974)

From season 1 of Run, Joe, Run:

Joe meets a young boy (Robbie Rist, fresh from The Brady Bunch) who ends up finding some "Sunken Treasure" that gets the attention of a seemingly harmless fellow (Chuck McCann), but the adult is a smuggler, apparently.

Rist, of course, would return to Saturday morning TV two years later with Sherwood Schwartz's Big John, Little John, and, later, Kidd Video, both for NBC, though reruns of the latter would later surface on CBS. McCann, the NYC kids show legend, would land his own series the next year, developing and co-starring in the Kroffts' Far Out Space Nuts for CBS.

In memory of McCann, who passed away Sunday at 83. No rating.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

On The Air: Constantine: City of Demons (2018)

Occultist John Constantine (Matt Ryan) returns in an all-new online miniseries, airing on CW Seed, which is also home to reruns of the short-lived live-action Constantine.

In City of Demons, Constantine comes to the aid an old childhood friend whose daughter has been possessed by a demon. There are ties to the live-action Constantine, and the continuity follows last year's "Justice League Dark" film.

City of Demons also reunites Constantine with co-executive producer David S. Goyer (Krypton), who was the show-runner for the earlier series. Goyer teams with Greg Berlanti ("Love, Simon", Arrow, Supergirl, etc.) this time around. The first 5 episodes are available for viewing after premiering at WonderCon two weeks ago. 7 additional episodes will be released later this year.

Right now, scope the trailer.

There are plans to release this as a full-length film with additional footage after the remaining episodes are released.

Rating: A.

Toons You Might've Missed: Smokey Bear & The Little Boy (1960)

Long before Rankin-Bass acquired a license to bring Smokey Bear to television, Smokey (Jackson Weaver) starred in this 5 minute-plus short for the US Forest Service.

"Smokey Bear & The Little Boy", narrated by Paul Frees (who else?) is a collection of smaller PSA's that apparently were cobbled together for use in classrooms.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Rare Treats: The Man From Button Willow (1965)

"The Man From Button Willow" was released in the spring of 1965, but the copyright at the end of the film suggests that it could've been out sooner. That is, two years sooner. By the time it was released, star Dale Robertson was a year away from Iron Horse.

Robertson not only introduces the movie, but co-wrote some of the music, and has the lead as Justin Eagle, a government agent assigned to Button Willow. Our supporting cast includes Thurl Ravenscroft as the preacher, Ross Martin (The Wild, Wild West), Howard Keel, and Edgar Buchanan (Petticoat Junction).

United Screen Arts, by the way, was Robertson's production company. I have no memory of this film having been on television. A pity.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Literary Toons: Journey to The Center of The Earth (1977)

From Famous Classic Tales:

It's safe to say the series had found its footing again after having only produced one new episode during the 1974-5 season. There were five the next year, and Jules Verne's Journey to The Center of The Earth was the pentultimate episode of the 1976-7 season.

As you can see, this was a more faithful adaptation of Verne's classic than Filmation's 1967 Saturday morning entry for ABC. However, Professor Lindenbrook is shown here as more of the stereotypical eccentric scientist. Whether or not that was Verne's original vision, I cannot say. I never read the book.

Rating: B.

Celebrity Toons: Blast Off (Emergency +4, 1974)

From season 2 of Emergency +4:

Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) has to teach an important lesson in fire safety when one of the kids is testing model rocket for a science fair. "Blast Off", it happens, was the series finale.

If the voice of Stanley's father sounds familiar, that's because it belongs to Richard Paul, later of Carter Country, who joined the cast in the 2nd season. Bobby Diamond (ex-Fury), who'd carved out a second career as a voice actor beginning in the 60's, is also heard.

Fred Calvert, as we've documented, would give it one more shot with boxing icon Muhammad Ali three years later, but that effort didn't survive Christmas.

Rating: C.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Retro Toy Chest: Mattel's Strange Change Machine (1968)

In the late 60's, Mattel, it seems, and maybe other toy companies, too, were encouraging kids to channel their inner mad scientists.

Case in point is Mattel's Strange Change Machine, which was introduced in 1968. Actor Paul Stewart, known to cartoon fans for his work on The Super Six and as the voice of Mightor, is the narrator.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Looney TV: The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1945-6)

Bob Clampett's "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", a Daffy Duck farce from the winter of 1945-6, holds the distinction of being the first cartoon shown on Cartoon Network when the channel launched in October 1992.

In a riotous sendup of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (of whom Daffy is a fan), Daffy knocks himself into dreamland, and imagines himself as "Duck Twacy". You can guess the rest.

Rating: A.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: USA High (1997)

Peter Engel was responsible for almost all of NBC's Saturday TNBC block in the 90's. 1997's USA High was supposed to be another entry for the block, but someone at NBC felt it may have been too much like Saved by The Bell to fit in, despite the fact that this series was set in Paris, with the core cast a group of exchange students attending high school in France.

The idea was that viewers were used to foreign exchange students coming here to learn, but we never knew about their American counterparts going overseas. Archie Comics tried to address that with an ill-fated Betty & Veronica story arc a few years back that sent the girls on what amounted to a foreign exchange world tour.

USA High aired instead on---wait for it---USA Network, which slotted the show on Friday afternoons and sometimes also on Sunday mornings, but not Saturdays. The first season consisted of a ridiculous 75 episodes, while the order was trimmed to a more reasonable 20 for the 2nd season. The series was cancelled after 2 seasons. The stigma of being a Bell clone, but lacking in charismatic characters, was too much to overcome in the long term.

Let's take a look at a sample episode:

With Bell well into its New Class era, entering season 5 in 1997, and airing for a full hour on NBC, viewers weren't interested. I have to say I fall into that category, as this didn't move the meter for me, either. No rating.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Toonfomercial: Linus & Lucy for MetLife (1991)

For several years, the Peanuts gang shilled for MetLife (formerly Metropolitan Life), which would explain why Snoopy appears on the company's rented blimp, or at least he did. MetLife ended their contract with the rights holders to the strip a while back.

Anyway, from 1991, Linus contemplates what he wants to do with his birthday money. Apparently, Lucy is more interested in spending.....

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Tooniversary: Yogi's Gang vs. Dr. Bigot (1973)

Yes, it's April Fool's Day. It's also Easter Sunday, and the rare joining of the two holidays is something we'll look at over in The Land of Whatever later. Right now, though, it's time for a Famous First.

Technically, the pilot for Yogi's Gang, "Yogi's Ark Lark", would be that series' 1st episode, but someone, either at ABC or Hanna-Barbera, I'm not sure which, decided to split the 1972 movie into two halves, and brought it back as a 2-part series finale. "Ark Lark", thus, was split further when it was shown on Fred Flintstone & Friends as a 4-part serial.

The official first episode of Yogi's Gang, then, pits Yogi Bear (Daws Butler) and company against "Dr. Bigot" (Henry Corden). Sounds as though Don Messick (Boo Boo) & Allan Melvin (Magilla Gorilla) double as Bigot's assistants, Haggling & Bickering.

Edit, 3/30/21: The video has been deleted.

One of the weaker episodes of the series, and they got it out of the way early.

Rating: C.