Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992, Part Eight...

According to the one who uploaded the above video this is from the final episode of Hee-Haw which aired on May 30, 1992. I've never seen a complete episode from the last season but in the above video we see a sketch called the Bus Stop. In the background you can hear the familiar banjo playing away and so I assume this was the urbanized version of the Kornfield. Gary Morris, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, and Hal Ketchum were the guests on what turned out to be the final first-run episode of the series. The series that appeared in the fall of 1992 was the "best-of" series called Hee-Haw Silver, which ran through the summer of 1993. In the above video you'll see Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Gordie Tapp, Mike Snider, Gary Morris, and several others trade jokes standing on a city street at a "Bus Stop".

In the video below we see a commercial for the Miracle Nose. It features Gary Morris and the Norris Twins. From 1969 through 1986 the program featured the Hagers, twin brothers who performed a lot during the show's earliest days. The arrival of the Norris Twins in 1992 marked the first time since the Hagers that twins were part of the series.

In the video below you'll see the relatively small cast...Roy Clark was the lone host during the show's final two seasons, 1990-1992. Roy had been joined by a different guest co-host each week between the years of 1986 through the spring of 1990. Prior to the fall of 1986 Buck Owens had co-hosted the show with Roy each week. Roy and Buck were the co-hosts from it's debut in 1969 through the spring of 1986.

The videos were uploaded by a fan of Gary Morris. I have no idea if other video from Hee-Haw's final episode exists but I'd like to see an episode from 1992 in it's entirety. As most people who read this blog are aware of I was never able to see the last season of the series because the local TV stations in my area didn't carry the show anymore. The final episodes that I saw were in 1991.

Trivia: What other television landmark came to a close in May 1992?

Answer: The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

Yes...that's right! The last Tonight Show that Johnny Carson hosted aired on May 22, 1992...which was on a Friday. 8 days later, on May 30th, Hee-Haw ended production of new episodes after a 24 season run.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians!

This DVD contains 8 half-hour episodes. Two of the eight episodes feature split adventures and as a result there are 10 adventures but 8 actual episodes. This installment of Super Friends was much more serious and heavy on character studies...there was no narration, which will be noticed right away. In all of the episodes of the series William Woodson was heard as the narrator...his catchphrase " the Hall of Justice..." became as synonymous with the series as the superhero's themselves. In this installment, which hit Saturday morning TV in 1985, there was no narration and the Hall of Justice had received a make-over. It now looked like an intergalactic headquarters one might find on a far off planet in the galaxy.

The appearances of the characters were more defined as well...more realistically drawn as compared to their previous look. One important note...the super-hero's were officially calling themselves the Super Powers Team...even the villains who for years had referred to them as "Superfriends" were now calling them the "Super Powers Team".

This review will obviously contain spoilers so don't anyone out there get angry when I reveal surprises and other interesting things that take place within these episodes!

There are several episodes in this 1985 series that are years ahead of their time. In one episode, the brilliant "The Fear", Batman is center stage as is the homicidal villain, Scarecrow, who is played more sinister than he was on Challenge of the Super Friends. New voice actor as well...the previous voice was provided by Don Messick. Cyborg is introduced in the first episode, "The Seeds of Doom", as a reluctant super-hero who ultimately becomes one of the Superfriends by the end of the episode. Lex Luthor appears at the beginning of this episode working the controls of a mechanical spider. He's soon captured and isn't seen for the rest of the episode. The Para-Demons of Apokolips are featured in the series...referred to as Para-Drones.

As you can tell, Darkseid becomes the main recurring villain in this series. Cyborg, by the way, is played in the first few episodes as a renegade of sorts...but he struck up a friendship with Ronald Raymond/Firestorm by the end of the first episode and by the third episode he's completely accepted his new job as a super hero.

"The Fear" tells the story of Batman's is noted that this episode was the very first time Batman's history was recalled in animated form. In the episode there are appearances by Alfred as well as Commissioner Gordon. In a unique scene we have Batman and Robin, for the first time in the Super Friend series, appearing as their alter ego's: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Diana Prince, a/k/a Wonder Woman, makes an appearance at the Wayne Manor. Jonathan Crane, a/k/a Scarecrow, uses fear to control Batman's mind...throughout much of the episode the Super Friends are oblivious to Crane's secret identity. Dick Grayson innocently remarks to Alfred that Batman's acted strange ever since he left Crime Alley. This causes Alfred go drop his dishes...for only he and Bruce know the story of Crime Alley. Bruce reveals the history of Crime Alley and explains that's where his parents were killed...which is ultimately what inspired him to become Batman. Parts of the dialogue in this episode was lifted from a comic book series called The Untold Legend of the Batman.

Darkseid, a God from Apokolips, is the main villain of this series...just as he was in the previous installment in 1984, The Legendary Super Powers Show. In one of the episodes, one of the 12 minute offerings, we have "The Case of the Stolen Super Powers". In that episode we are treated to an appearance by the Penguin and Felix Faust...of course, everyone knows the Penguin is one of Batman's main villains. In the episode Felix uses his black magic to cause Superman to lose his powers. At the start of the episode Felix and Penguin are sharing a jail cell. As Felix casts the spell, Superman's powers leave him, and fly toward the prison. Penguin, sensing possible fame as a super-criminal, leaps in front of Felix and takes the powers for himself. Penguin, with Superman's powers, busts out of jail and flies away. Felix escapes, too, floating to the ground using Penguin's trusty umbrella. Felix vows revenge, summons Phantoms to track down Penguin who'd become a major media celebrity. While back at Felix's hide-out he ultimately causes Superman's powers to vacate Penguin's body. Felix now possesses Superman's powers while Superman, using help from a flying mechanism, enters Felix's cave. Wonder Woman and the rest of the Super Friends arrive. Firestorm uses Felix's newly acquired powers against him and transforms Felix's helmet into Kryptonite. Wonder Woman uses the power of her lasso to force Felix into relinquishing Superman's powers. At long last Superman has his powers restored while Felix and the Penguin are sent back to jail...with the news they'll be sharing the same cell again.

The Joker, Batman's #1 enemy, turns up in the episode "The Wild Cards". The episode starts out with a gang of petty criminals who are seen breaking into a building. Watching from a distance is a mysterious shadow figure who ultimately shows up as Ace claiming to be an admirer of the gang. He offers his help he turns them into the Royal Flush Gang...based upon a group of bandits from the past who dressed up as playing cards. In this gang there's King, Jack, Queen, and Ten. Later, during a battle with the Super Friends, King uses a red heart from a playing card to shoot out red sun energy...causing Superman to get weaker. Firestorm and Wonder Woman are also captured. They set their eyes on Batman and Robin before Ace shows up instructing them to return to the House of Cards.

Ace, a one time member of the original gang in the '60s, is revealed in this episode to be the Joker in disguise. Within the House of Cards there's a device which transforms the Super Friends onto playing cards. Later, thanks to a tracking device Batman planted on the bottom of the one of the flying cards, the rest of the Super Friends arrive at the House of Cards. They soon discover that within the fortress there must be a portal of some kind as Apokolips can be seen when looking outside the windows. Batman remarks that "inside it's Earth and outside it's Apokolips!". For those who don't know, Apokolips is the planet from which Darkseid comes from. After another battle, Ace and the Royal Flush Gang are captured by Batman and Robin. Once captured, Batman reveals that Ace is none other than Joker in disguise. Later, Ten, is about to reveal to Batman how Darkseid's card transformation device works but at the last second Darkseid enters, shoots Ten with his Omega Beams, and releases the captured gang as well as Joker. The Super Friends flee...but are soon captured...or are they? Jack and Batman fight...and later it's revealed that during the battle Batman changed costumes with Jack in an effort to rescue the other Super Friends. Once Batman (as Jack) releases the rest of the Super Friends from the playing cards he reveals how he was able to turn the tables on Jack and sneak into the House of Cards. Joker's consistent mishaps and failures irritates Darkseid to the point where he throws Joker out of Apokolips...with the episode ending with Joker falling out of Darkseid's star-gate into the waiting hands of the Super Friends.

That episode and the other episode I just wrote about "The Case of the Stolen Super Powers", mark the only appearances on the Super Friends series of The Joker and The Penguin. The two villains were missing in all of the other versions of the series.

In "The Darkseid Deception" we're told a story of how Darkseid learns of Steve Trevor, the boyfriend of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. In the episode Darkseid captures the real Steve Trevor, transforming him into a mindless idiot. Darkseid assumes the identity of Trevor in an attempt to finally have Wonder Woman for his bride and co-ruler of Apokolips. In "Escape from Star City" we're told of a space city that features only two living beings: Moco and his daughter. Moco created Star City to escape Earth and it's destructive ways. Samurai grows puzzled why Moco doesn't want to have any involvement with other human's...he becomes further puzzled why Moco seems easily irritated and distant. It's revealed that Darkseid and company have captured the real Moco and have placed a robot android to take his place. Darkseid has his sights on taking over Star City which in his mind is a perfect location to ultimately take over Earth. The real Moco is rescued while Kalibak destroys Star City...thinking it's what Darkseid wants. Later, we see Darkseid genuinely in shock when he watches Star City fall apart. The scene ends with Deesad and Kalibak looking at Darkseid who apparently had been sitting in the same position for hours...with both of them hoping that Darkseid never finds out who really caused the destruction of Star City.

Brainiac makes an appearance on the episode "Brainchild" about Cyborg being captured and used in Brainiac's experiment. Brainiac created a gigantic commando robot and he implanted Cyborg's mind into it. Superman and Firestorm battle the indestructible robot until it's discovered that the robot still has some of Cyborg's humanity. They use the human side of the robot to cause it to overload and short circuit. Once this occurs Cyborg's mind is returned and he wakes up from suspended animation.

In the bizarre episode, "The Bizarro Super Powers Team", we get to hear William Woodson's voice narrating the opening sequence...telling us about the square planet known as Bizarro World...but he isn't heard again throughout the episode. Bizarro turns several of the hero's into Bizarro's while Mr. Mxyzptlk acts as the teacher who trains the transformed bizarro's into being so-called upstanding citizens. Ironically, Superman doesn't make an appearance in this episode...but at the last minute a bizarro Mxyzptlk is created by Wonder Woman and because everything's backwards when it comes to the Bizarro race Mr. Mxyzptlk's duplicate is referred to as Mr. Kltpzyxm and through a bizarre set of circumstances the real Mxyzptlk is tricked into saying his name backwards and is zapped back to the 5th Dimension. The bizarro version of Mxyzptlk has idea's of turning Bizarro World into a beautiful place, which alarms Bizarro, who voluntarily goes back to his own world to try and save it.

One of the most recalled episodes from fans of this series is the final episode, "The Death of Superman"...which is a wonderful episode! In it, the episode starts up reporting on the news of Superman's death. Darkseid doesn't believe it. The Super Friends send Superman's body off into the sun and make their way to the Fortress of Solitude. Firestorm in the meantime goes into a fit of anger as he was the one with Superman at the time of his death. Later, Firestorm gets into a fight with some of Darkseid's warriors...only to be captured and taken to Apokolips. Darkseid uses a device to force Firestorm to recall the hours leading up to Superman's death. We're told of how the two of them were on a planet where Superman became exposed to kryptonite. Firestorm was unable to get help and as a result Superman died from kryptonite poisoning. Darkseid revealed that he wished that he would have been the person responsible for Superman's demise instead of some freak accident. Later, at the Fortress, Batman and company enter and meet up with one of the various Superman robots that guard the Fortress. They explain Superman's death while the robot reveals that Superman had long been searching for an antidote to kryptonite and that in one of his recent experiments he put himself into a trance. They look at Superman's curious position on one of the computer tapes...which was exactly the same position Firestorm found him. It doesn't take long for several of the Super Friends to make the assumption that Superman's still alive but in a self-induced trance to slow down the effects of the kryptonite exposure! In the end Superman is revealed to be alive...which stuns Darkseid and just about everyone else.

The DVD contains the following episodes:

1. The Seeds of Doom
2. The Ghost Ship / The Bizarro Super Powers Team
3. The Darkseid Deception
4. The Fear
5. Wild Cards
6. Brainchild / The Case of the Stolen Super Powers
7. Escape From Star City
8. The Death of Superman

Monday, May 9, 2011

Look to the Sky...

As a child of the '80s and early '90s I was also into comic books of the era, too. Batman and Superman were at the top of the list for me...I love the Super Friends cartoons as well. I was not familiar with the earlier cartoons of Superman until they were released on a low-budget home video in the early '90s. Those cartoons were the theatrical releases by the Fleischer Studio. I was then acquainted with the George Reeves version of Superman when Nick-at-Nite began to air the television show...around the same time I began hearing the radio version with Bud Collyer that would often show up on NPR and the anthology series, When Radio Was, formerly hosted by Stan Freberg. I was very familiar with the movie version of Superman played by Christopher Reeve. The movies used to air seemingly all the time in the 1980's on HBO and TBS.

In addition to Superman, Bud Collyer was equally noted as a game show host ("To Tell the Truth", "Winner Take All", "Beat the Clock", etc. etc.).

In this DVD we get 36 six minute episodes. I don't necessarily know if each episode runs exactly 6 minutes but I'd say 6 and a half to 7 minutes is the general length per episode. Among the many adventures in this collection quite a few of them are wonderful in their of the adventures that's fine but isn't on the same level as the other episodes is "The Iron Eater". In that episode Superman has to stop a bizarre looking mechanical menace devouring iron all over the world. That episode, as well as "The Imp-Practical Joker" featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, are more whimsical than anything else.

One of the criticisms of the collection is that the episodes aren't in chronological order. For example, "The Return of Brainiac" is on Disc 1 while "Superman Meets Brainiac" is on Disc 2. As you can tell, the compilers of this collection should've caught the error before the DVD collection was released. Even with the collection not in chronological order at least someone should know, judging by the titles of those two episodes, which one came first. Regardless of this it doesn't take away from the enjoyment you'll get watching the episodes.

In what could be described as a forerunner to the future Legion of Doom makes an appearance as A.P.E. The members of the A.P.E organization are: Lex Luthor, Toyman, Prankster, and the Warlock. In their episode "The Men from A.P.E." we have Luthor as the inventor of a Kryptonic projector which is shot from a light-house. It's beam of kryptonite is capable of aiming at Superman within a mile radius. The villains purposely device schemes that cause Superman to fly near the light-house. "The Tree Men from Arbora" is a tale of a tree creature that consumes gallons of water...ponds, rivers, even the water from a by-stander's car engine. The creature hides in the Redwood Forrest and Superman has to battle him and return him to the Arbora planet.

"Merlin's Magic Marbles" involves Luthor and his assistant, Blinky, obtaining magic marbles from the spirit of Merlin. Toyman, in a later episode, creates a robot version of Superman for criminal use. The episode, "The Two Faces of Superman", is on Disc 2. One of the funnier aspects of the dialogue is when Superman refers to one of the insects in "Insect Raiders" as another episode, "The Prehistoric Pterodactyls", Superman refers to one of them as Terry Baby. In the Superman history there have been various criminals to use the name, Toyman. The original, Winslow Schott, is who the Toyman in these cartoons is based on. The illustration of him in these cartoons has him with dark hair, a big red bow tie, and just as a side-note the Toyman in these cartoons makes me think of comedian Henry Morgan (most famously known as a regular panelist on the classic game show, "I've Got a Secret").

Something of a mystery to me is the identity of the person providing the voice in the opening sequence saying the line "It's Superman!". We hear Jackson Beck do the narration but then we hear "It's a bird!", "It's a plane!", and then "It's Superman!". The reason I'm curious about who did that particular "It's Superman!" voice-over is because it sounds incredibly like Danny Dark, the man who voiced Superman in the 1970's and 1980's Super Friends episodes. If anyone has any information I'd love to know if it was Danny Dark or someone else.

Given that The New Adventures of Superman originally consisted of three short episodes per half hour (2 of Superman, 1 of Super-Boy) we have all of the Superman episodes that aired on that program. Since there were 2 short adventures of Superman per half hour episode, and there were a total of 18 half hour episodes produced, that's 36 in total.

The Super-Boy episodes aren't included due to legal complications.

To clear up some of the on-going confusion of whether to call this a "complete series" it's important to note that without the Super-Boy segments it isn't a "complete series" but as far as the Superman segments are concerned it's indeed a "complete series" since it has each and every Superman adventure from the first season, 1966-1967. The second season, 1967-1968, aired under the title The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. The third season, 1968-1969, aired as The Batman/Superman Hour.

Each of those Superman adventures in the third season were split up into 2 parts.

The fourth season, 1969-1970, was nothing but reruns from earlier seasons.

Bud Collyer passed away on September 8, 1969 which was the same day an updated version of "To Tell the Truth" began airing with Garry Moore as the host!

Collyer was the voice of Superman/Clark Kent on radio, in theatrical cartoons, and in the made for TV cartoons of the mid to late '60s.

The voice of Lois Lane in these episodes is Joan Alexander...she also provided the voice of Lois on the radio version, too. She became a regular panelist on the 1950's game show, "The Name's the Same", in addition to her being a regular actress on various radio drama's of the time period.

Jack Grimes is the voice of Jimmy Olsen in these cartoons just as he was in the final few years of the Superman radio show.

The show's narrator, Jackson Beck, also provided the voice of Perry White in addition to various incidental characters. Beck was also the narrator and voice of Perry White in the radio version of Superman. Beck's most recognized cartoon voice is that of Bluto/Brutus in the Popeye cartoons produced from 1944 through the 1960's.