Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rein-Toon-ation: The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996)

Cartoon Network began breaking new ground in 1996. Their World Premiere Toons anthology (later renamed, The What A Cartoon! Show) bore its first fruit with the debut of Dexter's Laboratory, which was farmed out to sister network TBS. Meanwhile, the network also decided to take a chance on reviving a classic hero from the 60's, and welcomed back Jonny Quest.

Reruns of the original series must've brought some big ratings numbers, else CN would never have commissioned The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, which anchored the network's then-new Toonami afternoon-early evening drive block. On one hand, the idea was to upgrade Jonny and his friends to bring them up to speed with the latest technology, and that included introducing them to the internet. Another big surprise was the fact that Jonny and his best buddy Hadji had been---gasp!---allowed to age. They were now teenagers!

Not only that, but they weren't alone anymore. The producers added Jessie Bannon, daughter of family bodyguard Roger "Race" Bannon, to create the potential for romantic tension between Jessie and either Jonny or even Hadji. That was despite the fact that Jonny wasn't exactly interested in Jessie to begin with. Jessie, for the uninitiated, had been introduced a few years prior in a made-for-cable movie.

Unfortunately, a lot of longtime fans were put out by the fact that Jonny & Hadji had reached puberty in the first place. Well, you can't have everything. However, halfway through the season, the producers had to overhaul the cast, if you could believe it. Don Messick, the voice of Bandit, the family dog, and Dr. Benton Quest (succeeded John Stephenson after a few episodes of the original series), was not asked back, and two actors more well known for movies and primetime tried to fill the void. They tried first with George Segal (Just Shoot Me), then replaced him with John DeLancie (ex-Star Trek: The Next Generation), who seemed to be more of a fit. Game show whiz kid J. D. Roth (more recently the host-producer of Endurance) was initially cast as Jonny, then was let go. Film star Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day") was brought in as Race, after Granville Van Dusen, who inherited the role from a retiring Mike Road in the 1985 series, left. Problem was, Patrick didn't quite fit.

Here's the intro:

Even though one season's worth of episodes were produced, CN played it into the ground for 3 years, during which time it also went into general syndication for a year. Now, it languishes in CN's vaults. Some genius thought a live-action movie starring Zak Efron ("High School Musical") as Jonny might be a blockbuster, but it never got past the talking stage. Thank God for small favors.

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

I was one of those who didn't appreciate Jonny & Hadji becoming teens. Part of the fun of the original show was seeing two prepubescent boys living a cool fantasy of traveling the world in search of adventure.

Did I mention I also HATED Jessie! It was obvious what she was meant to be and she just didn't belong with the rest of the group.

I'm guessing Don Messick left the show due to health problems... as he died the following year. Mike Road will always be my favorite and best Race Bannon VA.

The show seems even more dated than the original series, as it was built around fledgling CGI effects ("Quest World") and too much time was spent on the effects rather than the rest of the setting. The stories were a bit silly too.

hobbyfan said...

I was watching it regularly when it first came out, and I figured, maybe it's ok to see if letting Jonny & Hadji grow up a tad will work. After all, they weren't the first ones to be bumped up in age (Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, 25 years earlier), but it bothered me that there was more animosity between Jonny & Jessie, rather than the two of them becoming potentially a couple. There was one episode where both were possessed by ghosts of deceased lovers, and we got the one and only kiss between Jonny & Jessie, which ended with them reverting to being frenemies. Go figure.