Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Ripping Friends (2001)

From the twisted mind of John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy), the Ripping Friends exploded onto television screens in 2001, airing on Fox. Right now, here's the series opener, "The Indegestible Wad":



14 years earlier, Kricfalusi had worked with the legendary Ralph Bakshi on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, which featured a revival of Bakshi's 1960's superteam, the Mighty Heroes. The story goes that Kricfalusi had created the Ripping Friends before introducing Powdered Toast Man to the Ren & Stimpy Show, and that the Friends were originally meant to be starring in a feature film after Kricfalusi was axed by Nickelodeon. The Friends didn't last long at Fox, as the series was quietly cancelled without much fanfare. Cartoon Network picked up the series for their [adult swim] division, but it didn't last long there, either, and hasn't been seen since being dropped by CN.

The idea was that the Friends were an extreme satire of common superhero cartoons, but the plots were a little too over the heads of the target audience. Considering that Fox also had Japanese imports like Digimon: Digital Monsters on the schedule at the time, the sudden culture shift and shock from one program to the next would be too disturbing for young viewers. It's clear from the designs, though, that Kricfalusi may have been inspired, without saying so, by the Mighty Heroes, although it would be a bit of a stretch to suggest that these were all Strong Man clones. Jimmy, the Idiot Boy, the team's mascot, had previously appeared on Ren & Stimpy, and was also Spumco's mascot.

Rating: C-.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Jerry O'Connell Slides into "My Secret Identity" (1988)

Ok, so I was being cute with the title of this post. Anyway, 2 years removed from his feature film breakthrough in "Stand By Me", Jerry O'Connell made his television series debut in this fantasy adventure series, My Secret Identity, which was produced in Canada, and imported to the US in 1988. Drunkendwarf112 uploaded the open to YouTube:



The local NBC affiliate in my home market aired Identity ahead of the NBC lineup during season 1, then moved it to the early afternoons somewhere along the way. Identity lasted three seasons, and of course we know how Jerry O'Connell has moved on since, currently co-starring in CBS' reboot of The Defenders alongside James Belushi. Derek McGrath, who co-starred on Identity, might be better known to American audiences from his appearances on Cheers, among other shows. Identity has not aired in the US since it was cancelled 20 years ago, which is weird in that you'd think a cable network like Nickelodeon or ABC Family might take a chance with this show to fill time, instead of, especially in Nick's case, shoving the trendy series du jour down the viewers' throats for hours at a time.

Rating: B-.

Tooniversary: Space Kiddettes (1966)

While Space Ghost roamed the stars over on CBS, Hanna-Barbera served another space themed series to NBC, this one with a comic bent. Space Kiddettes starred a group of school-age children who were forever on the run from the pirate, Capt. Skyhook, because one of the kids was carrying a concealed treasure map.

Unfortunately, the intro to the series is not available, but Muttley16 found a long missing commercial bumper that hasn't seen the light of day since the series ended its NBC run:



During the late 70's and early 80's, reruns of Space Kiddettes were included in an odd package that also included repeats of shows from the Jay Ward &/or Total Television libraries. The same fate befell another H-B series that aired on NBC the next year----the previously reviewed Young Samson & Goliath.

I have had an idea about rebooting the Kiddettes, taking a more serious tack, and playing it like something out of the Star Trek franchise, with the kids a little older, wiser, and more resourceful. By the same token, Skyhook would also be rebooted as a far nastier villain. Warner Bros., though, is content keeping this show under lock & key, and not even considering any ideas. Their loss, as usual.

Rating: C.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Sonic the Hedgehog (1993)

Perhaps the most successful conversion of a video game into a cartoon, Sonic the Hedgehog rocketed onto television screens in 1993. There were actually two separate series, a weekday show that was in syndication, and the more popular Saturday series that aired on ABC. Here's the open to the Saturday version:



Family Matters co-star Jaleel White was the voice of Sonic, which might have come as a bit of a shock to fans of Matters, accustomed as they were to White as the nerdy Steve Urkel. Sonic the Hedgehog lasted two seasons on ABC before being cancelled, with reruns later airing on cable. The daily series also met its end around the same time, but Sonic would return in a new, syndicated series just a few years later, Sonic Underground, which lasted about the same length of time.

Sonic's still around, of course, as Sega continues to produce video games, and there is the long running comic book from Archie Comics, now well over 200 issues and still going strong. The last Sonic TV series, Sonic X, was imported from Japan by 4Kids for Fox, and lasted three years before Fox discontinued its Saturday morning schedule. Archie made a comics version of this show, too, but it was cancelled after a couple of years.

I've never played the game, but judging from the TV show, one can gather that Sonic was created with a literary legend in mind, particularly Robin Hood, as Sonic and his Freedom Fighters are trying to overthrow the evil Dr. Robotnik. They would succeed in doing that at the end of the series.

Rating: A-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Zeta Project (2001)

The seminal 60's crime drama, The Fugitive, has been the inspiration for a number of series that followed, some of them on Saturday mornings. The most recent example was The Zeta Project, a futuristic science-fiction series that surfaced on the Kids' WB! as a mid season replacement in 2001, after being spun off from Batman Beyond. Interestingly, series creator Robert Goodman never made a deal with DC to adapt his series to comics, which would've helped immensely. Here's a sample of the first episode, uploaded by Computerperson1234 to YouTube:




Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) voiced the title character, forever on the run from his former bosses at the National Security Agency, led by Agent Bennett (Kurtwood Smith, That 70's Show), serving as Lt. Gerard to Zeta's Dr. Kimble, if you will. Bader currently is the voice of the Dark Knight in Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave & the Bold, and as is the case there, Bader's characterization is light years removed from his live-action work. Sadly, Zeta was decommissioned after 2 seasons. Given how Kids' WB! tended to shuffle their lineup at a moment's notice without advance notice to the newspapers and cable companies, the series wasn't given a fair opportunity to find an audience. Like so many series from that period, it languishes in the WB vaults, waiting for someone to give it a home.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Ozzy & Drix (2002)

Ozzy & Drix is an all-animated spin-off from the movie, "Osmosis Jones", and spent 2 seasons in and out of Kids' WB!'s Saturday lineup, since the network had more series than they had room for, and shuffled series in and out, with the only constants at the time being anime imports Yu-Gi-Oh! & Pokemon. Now, let's meet the heroes in the opening to the show:



Phil LaMarr (ex-MadTV) takes over for Chris Rock as the voice of Osmosis "Ozzy" Jones, while Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo) steps in for Saratoga native David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) as Drix. Amazingly, given how our heroes took up residence in the body of a teenager, they could've made a case for this show getting the FCC's E/I designation, but no effort was really made to explain to kids how dangerous adult habits like smoking can be at such a young age. Well, 30 years ago, they would have. Sadly, as much as this was a hoot to watch, it languishes today in the WB vaults, as Cartoon Network has shown no inclination to pick up the series. Nor has anyone else for that matter.

Rating: B+.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Stars (1981)

NBC had a potent lineup in 1981. The Smurfs were introduced to American audiences for the first time. The rest of the lineup, however, was dominated by superheroes for the first time in years. Space Stars was supposed to have aired a year earlier, but was held back because of a writer's strike in Hollywood. The series marked the returns of two of Hanna-Barbera's super adventure series of the 60's, Space Ghost and the Herculoids, plus two new features, Teen Force and a spin-off from The Jetsons, Astro & the Space Mutts. Superherocartoonsite uploaded the open, narrated by Michael Rye (the voice of Green Lantern & Apache Chief on Super Friends):



Unfortunately, there are no Teen Force episodes available on YouTube at present, largely because when Space Stars aired on USA in the late 80's, the segment was deleted from the show, along with Astro & the Space Mutts, for time constraints, more than anything else. The Force, however, would frequently team with Space Ghost, and that was largely due to Kid Comet dating Jan, one of Space Ghost's proteges. You wonder why they didn't try to complete the double date and have Jace paired with Elektra. Boomerang & Cartoon Network have ignored the Teen Force as well, and it's their 30th anniversary year!

Actor Keene Curtis (ex-The Magician, later of Cheers) served as the narrator for all the segments, and to my knowledge it's his only cartoon credit. Regrettably, Space Stars was cancelled after 1 season, and NBC replaced it with The Incredible Hulk the next year, among others. A pity, considering the lack of respect accorded the Teen Force since.

Rating: B+.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play) (1975)

We're reaching into the archives of Soul Train for this classic slow jam from the Spinners. "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" featured a studio singer who unfortunately couldn't make the taping, so one of the Spinners had to lip-sync her part, which made for some very interesting viewing.

Uploaded by discolarry1234. Mind the Asian subtitles.



Now, how many of you still play this track late at night?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Dino Boy (1966)

Dino Boy in the Lost Valley was the backup feature on Space Ghost during the series' original run on CBS. However, when Space Ghost moved to NBC 10 years later as a mid-season replacement, Hanna-Barbera repackaged him with Frankenstein, Jr., leaving Dino Boy in the vaults. Hewey1972 uploaded this intro clip, narrated by the voice of Space Ghost himself, Gary Owens.



After The Flintstones had ended its prime-time run after 6 years, Hanna-Barbera wanted to take a more serious approach to the Stone Age, and Dino Boy was the first step in that direction. The next year brought Mightor, who fared about as well as Dino Boy did overall. Making such a sudden U-turn in that regard might actually have doomed Dino Boy in retrospect. Sadly, the studio's last two efforts, 1974's Valley of the Dinosaurs & Korg: 70,000 B. C., fared no better, either. Viewers simply preferred the humorous antics of The Flintstones over the concept of prehistoric heroes, and not even sending Captain Caveman back to his own time in the 80's could change that perception.

Not long ago, on a message board I frequent, I postulated an idea for a revival that would entail not only Dino Boy, but also Mightor & Valley of the Dinosaurs, with the idea that these three series could actually, if done right, have been linked together at some point, provided of course the creative personnel at Hanna-Barbera gave it serious consideration. Warner Bros. certainly is not in any hurry to try it, though, given Hollywood's general creative bankruptcy, they should.

Rating: B.

You Know the Voice: Gary Owens returns to prime time (1982)

A great number of voice artists, past & present, have their roots in radio, including Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Casey Kasem, and today's subject, Gary Owens.

Better remembered for being the original voice of Space Ghost, as well as being the announcer for Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Owens has also hosted some syndicated radio shows, including the golden oldies series, Gary Owens' Supertracks, which aired during the 80's, and I am not sure if that is still around. He also had a recurring role on Green Hornet during its TV run, playing a televison news anchor. Here, though, is a clip of Gary appearing on a short-lived ABC spring replacement series from 1982, No Soap, Radio, which aspired to be an amalgam of two popular British series, Fawlty Towers (because the show was set in a hotel) & Monty Python's Flying Circus. SufferingFoolsMusic uploaded this clip to YouTube:



Judge for yourselves, folks, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rein-toon-ation: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990)

In order to distinguish itself from the more established networks, Fox opted to build its Saturday morning lineup largely around licensed properties that its audience would be familiar with. One such case was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, an animated followup to the movie's 1st sequel, "Return of the Killer Tomatoes". The original "Killer Tomatoes" was released in 1978, with "Return", commissioned & released by New World Pictures, following a decade later. At the time, New World was Marvel Comics' parent company, so Marvel's television arm was commissioned to produce the animated Killer Tomatoes. Advanteege uploaded the open:



The one common link in the cast between the movies and this series was sitcom legend John Astin, who was the demented Dr. Gangreen. Attack lasted two seasons on Fox, and spent a short time on cable in repeats. Two more movies would follow in the series, but the cartoon hasn't been seen, save for, of course, YouTube, in the nearly 20 years since its' cancellation.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Swamp Thing (1991)

With a live-action series airing on USA at the time, and 2 feature films making the rounds on cable, you'd think Swamp Thing already had enough exposure. DIC, Kenner Toys (now part of Hasbro), & Fox didn't think so, and so we had a 5-week miniseries served up in April & May of 1991. Scarface2478 uploaded the opening theme, derived from the Troggs' classic, "Wild Thing", to YouTube:



For the first time, someone other than Dick Durock "played" Swamp Thing, and that would be voice actor Len Carlson. I guess it was either a case of DIC not being able to afford to pay Durock, or he was too busy with the live-action series. The common link between the two shows and the movies was that all were produced by Michael Uslan & Ben Melniker, who also were the producers of Tim Burton's brilliant "Batman" in 1989.

Writers Mark McCorkle & Bob Schooley are better known now for creating Kim Possible, but they were also the principal writers for this series. After Fox gave up, DIC turned Swamp Thing over to NBC, which incorporated the series into Chip & Pepper's Cartoon Madness later that year. For old school fans, this was a little refreshing, considering how writer Alan Moore had all but completely rebooted Swamp Thing in the comics, pulling him away from Len Wein & Berni Wrightson's original concept, although as you can see, Swamp Thing does have some of the elemental characteristics that Moore gave him while fighting ancient enemy Anton Arcane's henchmen. The live action Swamp Thing, which bowed a year earlier, had a longer shelf life, and is probably better remembered by fans. Besides, when was the last time someone traded for a Swamp Thing action figure?

Rating: B.

Tooniversaries in 2011

I'm not going to wait until September to compile this list. Our anniversary list will also include non-animated series that premiered around the same time frames.

55 years: Mighty Mouse Playhouse.

50 years: Top Cat, Adventures of Pinocchio, Tales of the Wizard of Oz, The Alvin Show.

45 years: Space Ghost & Dino Boy, Frankenstein Jr. & the Impossibles, Cool McCool, The Beagles, The Lone Ranger (1st animated series), King Kong, New Adventures of Superman, Space Kiddettes.

40 years: Archie's TV Funnies, Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch, Jackson 5ive.

35 years: Clue Club, Jabberjaw, Dynomutt, Krofft Supershow.

30 years: New Adventures of Zorro (Filmation), Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, Smurfs (American debut), Goldie Gold & Action Jack, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, Hero High, Space Stars.

25 years: Pee-Wee's Playhouse, The Real Ghostbusters.

20 years: Pro-Stars, Swamp Thing, Wishkid, Hammerman.

I'm sure I've missed a few, so let me know if/what I have, ok?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: One Less Bell to Answer (1970)

The 5th Dimension's classic ballad, "One Less Bell to Answer", was released in 1970, one year before Soul Train debuted, but the group appeared on the show, presumably during its first season, to perform the track, with lead vocals by Marilyn McCoo, who'd later go on to host Solid Gold several years later. Sunnysidup uploaded this clip, taken from a "Best of" edition of Soul Train, to YouTube:



I actually had a copy of the single once upon a time, acquired second-hand back in the 80's. Today, it's still worthy of getting couples on the floor for a slow dance, especially at the end of the night.

Animated World of DC Comics: Challenge of the Super Friends (1978)

After 5 years (counting repeats of the original series), Hanna-Barbera finally got the go-ahead to pit the Super Friends against their traditional foes from the comics in 1978's Challenge of the Super Friends. Fonjil uploaded the open, narrated by Bob Lloyd, who also was the announcer for the syndicated Hanna-Barbera's World of Super Adventure, which hit the air that same season, repackaging the studio's own superhero series from the 60's, including their adaptation of the Fantastic Four, which we covered last time.



If you need a scorecard, well, you don't really need one. The made-for-TV heroes, Black Vulcan, Samurai, & Apache Chief, didn't really have any arch-enemies. Here's the Legion of Doom's roster, with their heroic counterparts in parenthesis:

Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Toyman, Brainiac (Superman)
Sinestro (Green Lantern)
Capt. Cold, Gorilla Grodd (Flash)
Cheetah, Giganta (Wonder Woman)
Scarecrow, Riddler (Batman & Robin)
Black Manta (Aquaman)

Solomon Grundy was originally created as a foe of the Golden Age Green Lantern, but by the Silver Age had also fought Superman & Batman, among others. Meanwhile, the Wonder Twins were left out of the loop, but would tangle with some of the Legion's members in later seasons. The idea had been planted in the viewers' heads a year earlier that Zan & Jayna were meant to be comedy relief (which they really weren't in the comics), and thus, in order to emphasize the more serious drama of these stories, the Twins were MIA. In fact, the Challenge series is regarded as one of the most popular incarnations of the Super Friends franchise over the course of its 13 seasons on ABC.

As most fans know, Challenge was actually a 1 hour show, with the Legion of Doom episodes airing in the 2nd half of the show. As memory serves, the program expanded to 90 minutes to add episodes from the previous season's All New Super Friends Hour when ratings issues forced ABC to shuffle its lineup in mid-stream. However, when the series went into syndication just a couple of years later, it was sliced in half, as back in those days, a 1 hour show just couldn't be sold to local stations in that format. Challenge, like most of the franchise, is on DVD, which is part of why it no longer airs on Boomerang.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

From Comics to Toons: The Fantastic Four (1967)

Marvel Comics wanted a piece of the action on Saturday mornings in 1967. Spider-Man's rights were given to the same Canadian studio that did The Marvel Super Heroes Show a year earlier in syndication, but Hanna-Barbera picked up the rights to the First Family of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four. Braunelf uploaded the familiar intro, which features a narrative, which I'm guessing was done by actor Vic Perrin (ex-The Outer Limits), who also did some of the villains' voices on the show. The narrative has been deleted from prints of the series that have been shown on Cartoon Network and its sister channel, Boomerang, in recent years, for reasons known only to the network.



We've previously covered the Thing's unfortunate sojurn back to H-B in 1979, and the less said about that, the better at this point. Someday, we'll take care of the 1978 DePatie-Freleng incarnation of the FF. The FF would get one more crack at Saturday morning stardom as part of the mid-90's Marvel Action Hour syndicated series before moving to Sundays on UPN. Their last series, produced by an European studio, aired briefly on Cartoon Network & Boomerang before shifting to Nicktoons last year. Well, at least they've fared better on the small screen than at the multiplex.......

Back to the 1967 series. The producers were as faithful as possible, with one big exception. With Sub-Mariner's rights held by Grantray-Lawrence, any adaptation of his appearances in the FF books saw him rebooted as "Prince Triton of Pacifica". Fortunately, DFE took care of that problem 11 years later. Gerald Mohr voiced Reed Richards, with Paul Frees as Ben Grimm (The Thing). The two also worked together on the Green Lantern shorts on the Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure. Jo Ann Pflug was Sue Richards (Invisible Girl) and Jac Flounders was the Human Torch. To me, this was the best version of the series, and probably will remain so for all time.

Rating: A-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Shazzan (1967)

In 1967, Hanna-Barbera supplied CBS with three more superhero series. The Herculoids was set on a distant jungle world. Herman Melville's Moby Dick was rebooted as a heroic whale helping a pair of boys on some undersea adventures, and shared a half-hour with Mightor, a Stone Age superhero whose debut predated the campier Captain Caveman by a full decade. Finally, there was Shazzan, a towering genie at the service of a pair of New England teens who were transported through time to the days of the Arabian Nights. Cosminmq uploaded the open, which also includes a short introduction to the storyline, to YouTube:



Sadly, production was halted on the series before Chuck & Nancy (voiced by Jerry Dexter & Janet Waldo) could deliver the two-part ring to its rightful owner. Only one season's worth of episodes was produced, and continued to air for at least a 2nd season.

Hanna-Barbera would revisit ancient Baghdad again the very next season, with the Arabian Knights as a component of the Banana Splits Adventure Hour. However, Shazzan & the Knights would never meet, though logic suggests that, in the right hands, such a team-up could take place to bring closure to both series' storylines. Of course, the broken ring gimmick would also be used again, in 1979's horrid reboot of the Fantastic Four's strongman, The Thing.

Rating: A.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Toon Rock: New Kids on the Block (1990)

At the apex of the late 80's bubblegum pop revival, the New Kids on the Block seemed to be everywhere. Thanks to then-manager Maurice Starr, the boys had their images licensed for comic books as well as a short-lived animated series that aired on ABC in 1990. KatieNKOTB uploaded this sample to YouTube:



Unfortunately, the series lasted just one season, and DIC, which produced it, replaced the New Kids with Hammerman the next year. DIC & ABC got the worst of that deal, that much is certain. The experience, however, had a lasting effect on Donnie Wahlberg, who has made a successful transition into a more full-time acting career, with credits including "Saw" and some television work. Hey, it worked for his brother, Mark, too...........

Rating: C.

Saturtainment: America's Top 10 (1980)

One of the advantages of syndicated programming is that stations can plug a show in any time of day, be it morning, noon, or night. For much of its run, Soul Train was a Saturday staple, but in its later years, it was bounced around. In my area, it was banished to overnights on Sunday night/Monday morning in its final years.

Coincidentally, when America's Top 10 bowed in July of 1980, it had floating timeslots, depending on the market. The ABC affiliate in my area originally aired the show in back of ABC's Fridays, before passing the series around to other stations in the market. Thanks to cable, we know that AT10, a video spin-off of radio staple American Top 40, did air in the morning in some cities. Technically, that would be true in Albany, but let's not quibble.

AT40 co-creator and host (at that time) Casey Kasem, after making spot guest appearances on prime time series such as Hawaii Five-O and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, felt the time was right to give it a try with a weekly TV series of his own. Serving as both host and executive producer, Casey covered as many musical genres as possible.

Here's an excerpt from December 14, 1980:



While Casey turned over American Top 40 to ultra-busy Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) and retired from radio in recent years, America's Top 10 hasn't had the staying power of its parent series, ending sometime in the 90's. As with the radio series, Kasem would take some vacation time periodically and turned AT10 over to a number of guest hosts, including game show icon Bob Eubanks (Newlywed Game) and original MTV VJ Martha Quinn. Today, it's unlikely that a series like this could be revived. Or could it?

Rating: A-.

Friday, January 14, 2011

You Know the Voice: Casey Kasem Shags donations for MDA (1987)

Sometime in the early 80's, radio and cartoon legend Casey Kasem joined Jerry Lewis' staff of co-hosts for the annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon. In this clip, approximately from 1987, Casey decides to reach out to the young cartoon fans. CaptainOT uploaded this clip to YouTube:



Zoinks! The only other time that I can think of that Casey did his Shaggy voice on camera was when he acted as a fill-in announcer on Ricki Lake's talk show a few years back. Casey has scaled back on his voice work in recent years, as he currently voices Shaggy's father on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated for Cartoon Network, while actor Matthew Lilliard, who brought Shaggy to life in two "Scooby-Doo" feature films, takes over the iconic role full-time (and doing a good job of it, too). It's too bad I missed this the first time around. That would've woken me up for sure!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: And I Never Dreamed (1977)

It's amazing that during the 2 seasons of Krofft Supershow, Kaptain Kool & the Kongs didn't enjoy much success, if any at all, on the pop charts.

In season 2, the band ditched the glam makeup from year 1, and were reduced to a quartet with the departure of guitarist Flatbush (Albany native Bert Sommer). "And I Never Dreamed", with both the Kaptain (Michael Lembeck, later of One Day at a Time) and Super Chick (Debra Clinger, who'd move on to The American Girls a year later) on vocals, would've been perfect for the Adult Contemporary crowd had it been released today. In fact, it was the only single the group released! StreetKnight1 uploaded this clip to YouTube:



Also in season 2, Turkey (Mickey McMeel) occasionally stepped out from behind the drum kit to play bass and sing lead. Too bad no one's seen fit to release the series on DVD, much less compile the Kongs' songs onto a CD.

Saturday School: Recess (1997)

After Disney bought ABC, they gradually began to reprogram the network's Saturday morning lineup such that it would feature only Disney programming. This was finally completed when the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which Disney acquired from and later sold back to Saban, ended an 8 year run on ABC in August 2010.

One of the more popular Disney series on the network was Recess, which launched in 1997 as part of the One Saturday Morning block, and ended production 4 years later, though ABC & Disney kept it in reruns for a while after that.

Here's the intro:



It would be fair to assume that the series' creators and principal writers, Joe Ansolabehere & Paul Germain, modeled Gus, TJ, and friends as a latter-day Our Gang, but with a larger supporting cast than Spanky and his friends had back in the day. The 2001 feature film, "School's Out", served as a coda to the series, although 3 additional episodes were broadcast after the movie hit theatres.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: SOS (1975)

American Bandstand was the anchor at the tail end of ABC's Saturday morning lineup for many years, airing at or after lunch beginning in the 60's after it was established as a weekday afternoon variety show for teens in the 50's.

This first sample features Sweden's ABBA, performing "SOS", from 1975. The clip comes from a Best of American Bandstand episode that aired on VH1.



As they used to say on the show, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Underdog (1964)

Time and again, there have been characters created as satires of Superman who have achieved iconic status of their own. Mighty Mouse was one, and was well established on Saturday mornings by the time Total Television introduced Underdog in 1964.

Underdog spent 9 seasons on NBC, but by the time I became acquainted with him, the series was out of production and in perpetual rerun. Here's the first part of the episode, "Go Snow", which would be appropriate for winter:



Actor-comedian Wally Cox (ex-Mr. Peepers, later of Hollywood Squares) voiced the title hero and his meek alter ego, the generically named Shoeshine Boy. The one glaring difference between the two personas was Underdog always spoke in rhyme. I'm actually more surprised no one's tried to create a rap video based on this show!

As for that live-action/CGI movie version that Disney put out a few years back with Jason Lee (ex-My Name Is Earl) voicing the title character? A poser, nothing more! Purists should disavow any knowledge of its existence!

Rating: B-.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Toon Sports: Peter Puck (1974)

During their first go-round with the National Hockey League, NBC decided to spice up between-periods coverage by adding an animated instructional feature to school younger viewers on the game. Hanna-Barbera introduced Peter Puck to audiences in 1974, with actor Ronnie Schell (ex-Gomer Pyle, USMC) as the voice of Peter. In this sample clip, Peter talks about the rules of the game.



Traditionally, the networks would air hockey on Sundays during the winter, and NBC had picked up the rights to NHL hockey from CBS. Meanwhile, Peter also appeared on Hockey Night in Canada, and in recent times, a new set of shorts with Peter have been produced, this time with Peter interacting with current stars like Sidney Crosby. In addition the current Peter is a CGI creation, with a different actor providing the voice. Since NBC has aired NHL playoff games on Saturdays as well over the years (and so did CBS before them, and ABC after), Peter Puck merits inclusion in our archives.

Rating: B.

Rein-toon-ation: Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space (1972)

One of the greatest mysteries of Saturday morning television in my youth is why CBS & Hanna-Barbera decided to take another chance on Josie & the Pussycats. While the 1970 series might've spiked sales of the Archie comic book it was based on, they could've been better served ordering more episodes and keep the band on Earth, especially considering the cross-over appearance on The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Instead, some genius decided to use the band to parody Irwin Allen's popular 60's sci-fi hit, Lost in Space. Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space was the 2nd H-B series produced in Australia (Funky Phantom, which bowed a year earlier on ABC, has the distinction of being the first), but the quality of the animation, as you'll see in the intro, took quite a hit. Here's the intro most of you remember:



While the voice cast remained the same, the singing voices of the band members changed, though to very young ears you might not have noticed the difference at first. Seeing as how their team-up with Scooby & Mystery Inc. aired concurrently with this series when it was in an all-rerun cycle during the 2nd season, you wonder about the continuity between the shows. As the comics prove, of course, the band finally came home, but left their alien mascot, Bleep, behind on some remote planet.

Rating: C.

Monday, January 3, 2011

You Know the Voice: Mel Blanc

The word "genius" doesn't get tossed around very lightly, but it applies to the legendary Mel Blanc, the man who created the definitive voices for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Barney Rubble, Capt. Caveman, and so many more. For your viewing pleasure, we present a classic interview from Late Night With David Letterman. Uploaded by Renegadeimp to YouTube:



And, then, there is this classic commercial for American Express, uploaded by blegume:



Mel passed away in 1989, leaving behind a lifetime of great memories.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rein-toon-ation: Lost in Space (1973)

From the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie series comes this back-door pilot for an animated revival of Lost In Space. Unfortunately, as you'll see in a moment, there's a reason why this pilot ultimately failed. Co-produced by 20th Century Fox, which produced the original series, and Hanna-Barbera, and uploaded to YouTube:



Jonathan Harris, who had done some voice work for Hanna-Barbera previously (Three Musketeers), is the lone holdover from the original series. Don Messick provided the narration. They gave the robot a name, "Robon", but didn't have enough money to hire on veteran announcer Dick Tufeld (who was the voice of the robot in the original series) for this project. Messick also voices Robon. Other voice talent includes ex-Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni (Josie & the Pussycats, Super Friends), Michael Bell (Speed Buggy), & Vincent Van Patten (later of Apple's Way). Also, Ralph James (later the voice of Orson on Mork & Mindy) can be heard. Fred Freiberger was credited with the script, from what I understand. I didn't see this when it first aired, so I cannot give a fair rating.

It would be 21 years before Fox & H-B would team again, this time on the feature film, "The Pagemaster".

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: When the Fair Comes to Your Town (1962)

Total Television only a had a small handful of successes in the 60's, including Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales, and King Leonardo & His Short Subjects. One of the backup features used on two of those programs was the Sing-a-Long Family, a mini-series of short skits in which the narrator sings the story. Only three Sing-a-Long Family numbers were produced, including "When the Fair Comes to Your Town", which we present here:



I guess you can say that, to today's audience, it was an early form of karaoke.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rein-toon-ation: My Favorite Martians (1973)

It had been a few years since the original My Favorite Martian, starring Ray Walston & Bill Bixby, had left CBS for syndicated reruns. Filmation struck a deal to adapt the series into a Saturday morning cartoon, also for CBS, as part of the network's 1973-74 lineup. Here's the opening, which was posted to YouTube off Retrojunk.com, but the video, I will caution, is not in the best quality:



My Favorite Martians lasted just one season. Jonathan Harris (ex-Lost In Space) took over the role of Uncle Martin, originated by Walston, and, as previously documented, would later work on two live-action series for Filmation: Uncle Croc's Block & Space Academy. My Favorite Martians would later resurface as part of the syndicated Groovie Goolies & Friends anthology package just a few years later, which is when I first encountered the animated Martians.

Rating: B--.