The Couch: The Universe of Colonel Bleep

Today the Couch takes a look at a forgotten cartoon ‘classic’ from the late 1950’s, Colonel Bleep.

No, that's not a swear. Clean up your minds.

No, that’s not a swear. Clean up your minds.

First, I’ve got to give a shout-out to Greg Sepelak and Trent Troop of The Isle of Rangoon. I had only heard or read things about this show before they started riffing it on their web series. If you haven’t been watching The Isle of Rangoon, start doing so immediately.

For those who don’t know, Colonel Bleep was the first color cartoon ever made for television. It was created by Robert D. Buchanan, and was filmed by Soundac of Miami. (Some sources have Joseph Barbera with a hand in its creation as well, although his contribution was short-lived before he rejoined William Hanna to form Hanna-Barbera.) The show was originally syndicated in 1957 as a segment on Uncle Bill’s TV Club. 104 episodes, of varying length of between three and six minutes each, were produced. Of these episodes, slightly fewer than half are known to survive today.

The show took place on the fictitious Zero Zero Island, where Earth’s equator meets the Greenwich Meridian. (Zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude, get it?)  There, Colonel Bleep, a futuristic extraterrestrial life form from the planet Futura, protected Earth with the help of his two deputies. Representing the present day was Squeek (a mute cowboy puppet boy), and representing the past was Scratch, a caveman of great physical strength who was awakened from a sleep of several thousand years by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also the same event that triggered Colonel Bleep’s travels to earth. Colonel Bleep, like other Futurans, could manipulate “futomic energy” in a variety of ways; for instance, to propel himself through space (inexplicably, on a unicycle), or as an offensive weapon. The amount of futomic energy Colonel Bleep could absorb at any given time was finite, and in several episodes he runs out of energy and becomes vulnerable.

The trio’s usual nemesis was a dark and mysterious hooded figure called Dr. Destructo, who could typically be found in his flying saucer with only a visible torso. Other regular villains included The Black Knight and Black Patch the space pirate.

“So how come all the bad guys gotta be black?!”

Here’s the first episode:

-Now I know it’s all too easy to simply write Colonel Bleep off as hilariously dated 50’s camp, and yes, it’s science is way off (Scratch being asleep for merely thousands of years and having a pet dinosaur–Bill Nye would have a field day with this show), but while as a modern-day sophisticate (burp!) I can pick the show apart for being unintentionally hilarious–especially with the gregariously over-the-top narrator who sounds like he’s on the verge of busting a vein or how they offer absolutely no explanation as to how or why Squeak is alive (must’ve been radiation, that’s how everything happened in the 50’s), I find some elements of Colonel Bleep to be kind of fun and cool. Believe it or not.

In fact, recently I was thinking what a 21st century update of this show would be like. So now it’s time for your favorite game and mine: FLIP THAT SCRIPT!

To start with, I love the idea of the show’s 3 protagonists representing the past, present (as of the 1950’s anyway) and future, and I’d definitely keep that idea, I’d just make a few tweaks to it here and there. For our future hero, I’d make this character a starry-eyed space girl from a future world.

She's literally starry-eyed!

She’s literally starry-eyed!

The Colonel could manipulate “futomic energy”. Let’s make that a little more toyetic and appealing and call it “space magic”, similar to what Cupcake wielded on Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, a show which Jason chronicled in an earlier Retro Bin.

Jason already covered this, but we never did get an explanation of how this 25th century future chick was able to perform rainbow-beamed magic.

Jason already covered this, but we never did get an explanation of how this 25th century future chick was able to perform rainbow-beamed magic.

“Evolution, baby.”

For the character representing us, Team Present Day, let’s face it: the cowboy puppet thing is a little too 50’s. Let’s make that character a spunky,fun-loving kid. Hello, youth market.

We'll also make her a girl since boy protagonists are a dime a dozen. She could be an orphan so she won't have parents in our time worrying about her zipping through time and space. maybe she and Future Girl could be related, like her extremely distant cousin from a few dozen generations or something.

We’ll also make her a girl since boy protagonists are a dime a dozen. She could be an orphan so she won’t have parents in our time worrying about her zipping through time and space. maybe she and Future Girl could be related, like her extremely distant cousin from a few dozen generations or something.

Finally, let’s cast our past character. How about a wild-acting cave kid with a little sister personality?

Fang_Barbarian

Maybe the others found her during a time travel adventure and decided they wanted a pet.

While we're at it, let's give the cave girl a pet dinosaur for comic relief and to sell a few million more toys. I like a mother-%$#@in' T-Rex. How about you?

While we’re at it, let’s give the cave girl a pet dinosaur for comic relief and to sell a few million more toys. I like a mother-%$#@in’ T-Rex. How about you?

Future Girl and her 2 T.D.B.F.F.s (Time Displaced Best Friends Forever) fly and zip and zoom across the cosmos (with FG using her magical super-highly evolved flying powers–no unicycle, that’s just dorky–while the other 2 hold her hand for dear life), encountering wacky extraterrestrials…

“Nanu-Nanu!”

…Or just hanging out having cool fun in Futura, the World of Next Tuesday After Tomorrow.

Where the TVs broadcast in RHD (Ridiculously High Definition) and ice cream comes in 731 flavors--and counting.

Where the TVs broadcast in RHD (Ridiculously High Definition) and ice cream comes in 731 flavors–and counting.

Time for an apropos musical number. Kick it!

-The only thing I’d dial back on would be the battling evil robots and the like. Why?

“Fighting atomic robots is so 1957, man!”

The Couch: Channel Umptee-3

Today the Couch looks at an underground TV station that skewered the television industry.

No, not that one. Don’t I wish??

Please stand by. We've just lost a good portion of our readers.

Please stand by. We’ve just lost a good portion of our readers.

-Seriously though, if you’re not familiar with SCTV, head to your local video store or surf the web for it. You won’t regret it.

But no, the show we’ll be spotlighting today is another underground TV channel, Kids’ WB!’s Channel Umptee-3.

Channel Umptee-3 (also known simply as Umptee-3) is a Saturday morning animated television series created by Jim George and produced by Norman Lear that aired on The WB in 1997. The title is derived from the fictitious number “umpteen.”

This article won’t be very long or detailed, since a) is another one of those shows which takes longer to talk about than it actually ran; and b) I’ve only ever seen a single episode of this show; our local WB affiliate didn’t carry this show, so we had to literally disconnect the cable from our TV, stick a pair of rabbit ears on it and watch this show from a low-powered UHF channel from Washington D.C. Here’s the skinny:

Ogden Ostrich, Sheldon S. Cargo (a snail), and Holey Moley (a mole, of course) drive around the world in a van with their own underground television station, while fleeing the wrath of corporate-villain Stickley Rickets (Stickley and his henchmen are often called “The Frumps” by Ogden). This one-season cartoon show was designed to teach kids to appreciate the wonders of everyday things, such as sleep and water.

Channel Umptee-3, which exists between other channels and is broadcast from a mobile station, tries to focus on a specific topic in each episode, but is usually diverted from it and shifted onto another topic; e.g., one episode started out discussing cats, but quickly segued into the subject of ownership (which was the real topic of that show). Meanwhile, “The Frumps” (i.e., Stickley Rickets and his henchmen) would try to shut the station down or increase their own power, but whatever plan they came up with would fail (obviously–there wouldn’t have been any more show if they had succeeded).

The show made great use of stock footage, as did the earlier WB show Freakazoid! Also, the show sometimes made references to well-known movies and TV shows; e.g., the episode “Yours, Mine, and Ours” included references to Cats, Harvey, Star Wars, Dragnet, and The People’s Court, and the title was that of a classic movie.

"Oh my, we're havin' some fun now!"

“Oh my, we’re havin’ some fun now!”

The cast of Channel Umptee-3 was a unique and colorful bunch, to say the least:

Ogden O. Ostrich (voiced by the legendary Rob Paulsen) is an excitable yellow ostrich who first came up with the idea for a television program to show everyone that “the world is a magical place” after pulling his head out of the ground one day and looking at the world around him. At the start of every episode he comes running up the camera yelling “Hey!” over and over.

Sheldon S. Cargo (voiced by David Paymer) is a large pink snail whose shell is fitted with a unicycle-like wheel to help him get around. Sheldon is the serious, professional member of the team; he tries his best to hold the show together, despite Ogden’s almost hyperactive behavior. His name is derived from “escargot”, a French dish made with snails.

 

frenchman

“Hoh-hoh-hoh! Oui oui, mes amis, sil vous plait, zut alour, merci bou coup, croissants, creme brule, Rue La La and other phrases, non?”

-These and other colorfully outdated cliches and generalizations are here for the taking, so come on down to STEREOTYPES R US!-

Now back to the article.

Holey Moley (no voice actor) is a pantomime character, a large mole who carries a number of portable holes that allow him and his friends to go anywhere.
Professor Edwin I. Relevant (voiced by the late Greg Burson) is the station’s resident expert on everything; Ogden and the others turn to him for information on the day’s topic in almost every episode. Interestingly, Prof. Relevant was a human.
Polly (voiced by Susan Silo) is one of two newscasters who work for Channel Umptee-3.

Their nemesis, the Frumps, were led by one Stickley Rickets (voiced by Jonathan Harris) is the president of a corporation that produces boxes; because the “Umptee-doodies” (as he calls them) encourage people to take things out of boxes and look at them in a new way, he sees them as a threat to his business, so he constantly plots to shut them down and “put them in a box, where they belong.” Interestingly, this wasn’t Mr. Harris’ first time playing a corporate suit; he also played producer Basil T. Bitterbottom on Filmation’s Uncle Croc’s Block, a Saturday morning show which aired on ABC decades earlier.

Please stand by. We've just lost even more of our readers.

Please stand by. We’ve just lost even more of our readers.

Pandora Rickets (voiced by Alice Ghostley, perhaps best known as Esmerelda from Bewitched), was Stickley’s wife, who wasn’t nearly as obsessed as her husband where the Umptees are concerned; she even likes to watch some of the shows, although she didn’t want Stickley to find out.

-Wait, Rickets’ company produces boxes, and his wife’s name is Pandora. It’s a reference to ‘Pandora’s Box’, the box in Greek mythology which contained all of the world’s evils and troubles which was given to Pandora, the first woman on Earth created by Hephaestus, blacksmith of the gods, and her husband Epimetheus as revenge by Zeus for Epimetheus’ brother Prometheus stealing fire from heaven and was accidentally opened by Pandora, thereby unleashing death and all the evils into the world.

“They’re called BOOKS, kids. Try reading one sometime!”

Ed and Bud are two black-suited henchmen who carry out Stickley’s orders, and were almost never successful. Ed was the taller one, and Bud was the shorter, balding one.

Channel Umptee-3 didn’t run for very long; only a single season, originally on Saturday mornings, then it finished its’ run on Friday afternoons, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever seen. The show’s central theme of showing kids the wonder and beauty of the world around them, almost made Umptee-3 a modern-day Big Blue Marble or Vegetable Soup.

Please stand by. We've now lost the remainder of our readers.

Please stand by. We’ve now lost the remainder of our readers.

It wasn’t perfect: I’d have rather they had gone with human leads as opposed to anthropomorphic man-things, and all the Umptees didn’t have to be guys, either, and I personally didn’t think they needed to deal with the Frumps every week, at the most they could have merely been recurring characters–but it looked like fun and it’s message was pretty decent. Plus, any show that manages to employ the talents of Rob Paulsen, Jonathan Harris and Alice Ghostley deserves some honorable mention. Channel Umptee-3 was actually kind of cool, though there were much cooler TV stations out there….

The Couch: Hero 108

On this edition of The Couch, we’ll be looking at the world of Hero 108.

Hero_108_baje_pl_10

For those who don’t know, Hero: 108 is an European/American animated television series that has aired on Cartoon Network and the Cartoon Network international cable network, and Kabillion OnDemand channel in the United States that was created by Yang-Ming Tarng. The series was produced by Taffy Entertainment, in association with Gamania, Hong Ying Animation, Telegael Teoranta, and Turner Entertainment Networks International Ltd. It premiered on March 1, 2010.

Trivia Time: The show is very loosely based on ancient Chinese novel the Water Margin focusing on the exploits of First Squad and Second Squad.

The shows’ premise is conveniently explained in the series’ intro:

Basically, many years ago in the Hidden Kingdom, animals and humans lived in perfect harmony until an evil trickster named HighRoller arrived and fooled the animals into thinking humans were their enemies. Chaos reigned in the Hidden Kingdom until Commander ApeTrully formed a task force called Big Green to reunite the animals and humans while fighting the forces of High Roller and the Zebra Brothers.

Big Green is a peace-making force with goals to restore peace between the humans and animals:It’s roster consists of:

Commander Ape Trully – The leader of Big Green who is later revealed to be the king of the monkeys (hence the name, Ape Trully – monkeys aren’t apes, but let’s just go with it) but he keeps it a secret in order to protect Big Green’s morale.

Woo the Wise – a human inventor who was the first person to be convinced to join Big Green. At some points, his robe tends to rise up.

First Squad is Big Green’s elite warriors. Among its members are:

Mr. No Hands – Classified as Hero 020, Mr. No Hands is the military leader of Big Green’s First Squad though he does not go on missions as often as his teammates. He is a strict but kindhearted human who is easily irritated by the strong-willed warriors under his charge. The tassel of his hat is capable of spinning like a helicopter, allowing him to fly. The hat itself can shoot dangerous darts at his enemies. He keeps himself in a stockade because he cannot stop tickling himself if his hands were free, though Woo’s attempt to cure No Hands leads him to now use the stockade to keep his hands from hitting anything in punching distance.

Lin Chung – Classified as Hero 006, Lin Chung is known by some as the most accomplished, most skilled warrior in all of Big Green. He possesses the legendary Panther Vision, which allows him to see great distances, or to see the world in slow motion while he moves with speed. He wields a staff that can shoot edible bamboo shoots out at enemies. Lin Chung’s also has his “Master Stroke” in his arsenal which is devastating to all enemies. This move involves a great leap into the air while spinning his staff. He catches the staff, which propels his full body into a spin, projecting him at his opponent with massive force which was proven in “Rabbit Castle”. He has a hobby of drawing and sometimes dropping out of battles just to draw when he finds an inspiration like in the episode “Elephant Castle”. In reality, his drawings are awful, but his friends do not tell him that so he will not go into a state of depression up until Woo the Wise made a comment about art not being better than science in “Pitched Battle of the Air Force”. His drawing skills got better as the series progressed.

Jumpy Ghost Face – Classified as Hero 088, Jumpy Ghostface is the King of the Rabbits. He is a talented, straight-ahead fighter who dives headfirst into dangerous battles without flinching an ear. He may look cute as a bunny, but Jumpy is not the sort of animal you would want to meet in combat. He joined Big Green after being defeated in a jump rope battle. His weapon of choice is a jump-rope. He also uses carrots as weapons, either throwing them like shurikens or using them as grenades. He can wrap his ears around his head like a ninja mask. He also has a habit of daydreaming, even in the heat of battle. Whenever someone looks into Jumpy’s swirling eyes when he’s daydreaming, they end up in Jumpy’s daydream. Jumpy Ghostface also has a soft spot for insects and will not let anyone harm them. Jumpy is slowly learning human language by attending classes with Parrot King at Big Green. He has an active imagination and his thought balloons often convey unique solutions to difficult problems mainly interpreted by Lin Chung.

Mystique Sonia – Classified as Hero 103, Mystique Sonia is a tough, seasoned warrior. She is usually bickering with Mighty Ray. She can use her long tongue in battle to fight off enemies, using it like a whip and spinning it around to produce winds. Yaksha can also pull out a shard of ice which Mystique Sonia blows on it with her spinning tongue in order to produce strong and cold winds that freeze her opponents. She possesses seeds that grow freshly cooked buns when she spits on them for food. She can also play the flute. She likes flowers, decorations, and other pretty things. While powerful, she is also a total girl. It is not unheard of her for to take down Mighty Ray in a wrestling competition and then decide to redecorate the First Squad Briefing Room. Mystique Sonia is admired by many boy heroes, especially by the soldiers in the Big Green Army. The Sailor Brothers have a terrible crush on her as well. But woe to the one who tells Mystique Sonia he loves her. Since she is cursed with a spell, anyone who tells her he loves her three times in a row turns into a Yaksha. Mystique Sonia wears one Yaksha on her head like a hat.

Mighty Ray – Classified as Hero 025, Mighty Ray is a warrior of First Squad. Mighty Ray was once a member of Mr. No Hands’ giant foosball team. They were playing a match, but it was postponed as HighRoller, the Zebra Brothers, Bear Stomp and some of the toughest animal kings attacked the stadium. Mighty Ray defeated the animal kings, but the Zebra Brothers used their ghost lanterns to turn Mighty Ray’s eyes to stone. Mr. No Hands took Mighty Ray to a temple where Commander ApeTrully took Mighty Ray to see a giant stone skeleton monkey,who traded his own eyes for Mighty Ray’s eyes. He has the power to shoot electrical bolts of energy from his eyeballs. To recharge his eyeballs, Mighty Ray must eat more bananas which he dislikes. Trivia Time: In the Hero: 108 manga (and yes, there is one) Mighty Ray only has to touch his eyeballs to activate the bolts.

The main antagonist is High Roller. He was once a court jester who was banished from the Eastern Capital for insulting its emperor and wandered into the Hidden Lands. Upon getting struck by lightning, he gained the ability to communicate with animals and tricked them into thinking humans were their enemies. As the new Emperor of the East Citadel, HighRoller gets to do whatever he wants, and what he typically wants to do is attack humans (or get animals to attack humans for him), eat candy, read comic books, and play games.

The first thing that I noticed about High Roller is his distinctive headgear with the arrow going through it.

Steve Martin

“That High Roller is a wild and crazy guy!”

The story line in a typical episode follows a formula, although the formula varies and several episodes depart from it: Commander ApeTrully goes on a mission to the castle of an animal kingdom to make peace and ask its inhabitants to join Big Green, bringing a gift of gold as a token of goodwill. The animals generally dismiss the gift, and usually capture ApeTrully who calls for help from First Squad. Members of First Squad (usually everyone except Mr. No Hands, who does come along on occasion) deploy by descending through a maze of tubes and landing on turtles fitted with tank treads, and then are launched through a tunnel and out over the water. When they arrive where ApeTrully is being held, a battle or contest ensues, during which special talents or abilities of the animals are revealed, often something based on their nature. After the battle or contest, the animals usually concede to First Squad’s skills saying through translation by ApeTrully (unless the animal rulers can talk) that they would be honored to join Big Green. After joining, the animals often are assigned a particular duty at Big Green based on their demonstrated skills, which may help solve a problem introduced in a subplot.

But I won’t be going into great detail about the series and the arcs and so forth, as I’m mainly going to talk about the Asian influenced fantasy world that the series takes place in, Hidden Kingdom. Hidden Kingdom is a strange, surreal setting in which animals and humans are more or less equals, with some of the animals being able to talk to the humans. I also like how the members of Big Green travel to their desired location:

Hero-108-dance-education

They ride bareback on turtles who themselves run on top of treadmills, thus moving like tanks. That’s very interesting, although I personally think that the boatmobiles on SpongeBob Squarepants are a little cooler.

We’ve already got cars that run on water! How about that, Eco friendly tree huggers?”

I’m not sure exactly when in history Hero 108 is supposed to take place. I do remember there being a train in one episode. In another, Big Green needed to produce a dragon, so they had to disguise several members in costume with effects as a fake dragon because “Dragons are mythical.” Really? This is a world full of animals and humans with weird powers but dragons don’t exist? That strikes me as being a tad curious. You’d think in a world like Hidden Kingdom, nothing would be too strange to not be real.

Anyway, I kind of like Hidden Kingdom as a setting. It’s like a cross between Dragon Ball‘s Earth and Animal Crossing. If there wasn’t a war between animals and humans going on, Hidden Kingdom might be a pretty cool place to live. I want to be one of the creatures with powers, of course . I admit that I’d like to be able to emit lightning bolts from my eyes like Might Ray. In fact, I had an idea for a comedy series that would have taken place in Hidden Kingdom. Originally, it was going to take place in a neighboring town many miles away from Hidden Kingdom where the war wasn’t nearly as prominent. Then I read about The Legend of Korra and then decided that my show would take place in Hidden Kingdom several decades after the war had ended. Of course, nothing came of this idea. Still, i think that Hidden Kingdom is a pretty cool setting, even if things in it are a little strange.

“Hidden Kingdom doesn’t seem all that strange to me, but then, I came back from the dead…twice!”

The Couch: The Other Muppet Shows

Most of us are familiar with Jim Henson’s groundbreaking and much beloved series The Muppet Show….

the-muppet-show

…and it’s for that reason that it’s NOT fit to be covered on The Couch. The Couch pays tribute to the lesser known, less celebrated, obscure and forgotten shows, so we won’t be covering The Muppet Show today. But did you know that Henson Associates tried rehashing the Muppet Show formula on 2 separate occasions? They did, first with MuppeTelevision in 1989 and again with Muppets Tonight in 1996. These are the shows we’ll be spotlighting today.

NOTE: Since by now nearly everyone’s familiar with the Muppet Show formula, both of these summaries are going to be very rapid-fire and abridged; I’ll only be giving brief overviews of each. Having said that….

IT’S JUICE TIME!

MUPPETELEVISION

MuppeTelevision regularly occupied the first half of The Jim Henson Hour, a short-lived television series that aired on NBC in 1989, modeled after the old Walt Disney Presents specials. It was an updated version of the classic series The Muppet Show, the new twist being that the Muppets were now running an entire cable television network rather than a single variety show. The Muppets broadcast their network’s programming from a unique control room called “Muppet Central”. The station was capable of picking up television signals from throughout the universe, and it was up to Kermit the Frog, who served as director, to decide which shows the viewing audience would see. Most of the acts were viewed on television monitors, while backstage antics happened in the Muppet Central control room. Just about every act would be introduced from the control room, in contrast to the previous Muppet Show, where characters would come on-stage to introduce acts.  Regulars included past favorites Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo and Link Hogthrob in addition to new characters Digit (a malfunctioning robot), Leon the Lizard (who insisted that he and Kermit were related; he constantly called Kermit “Cuz”), Lindbergh the Kiwi, Vicki (a young intern who was a fan of the original Muppet Show when she was a kid, making us all feel old), Clifford, Waldo C. Graphic (the first computer generated Muppet), and Jacques Roach (a parody of Jacques Cousteau). Also appearing as a series regular was Bean Bunny, who had previously starred in the HBO TV special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, parodying the treacly cuteness he was originally created to embody.

Waldo_front_view

Not just a Muppet, but a Muppet in 3-Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The house band for MuppeTelevision was called Solid Foam, taking the place of the psychedelic Electric Mayhem band that had appeared in most previous Muppet projects. The band included:

-Digit on keyboard
-Flash on saxophone and vocals
-Clifford on bass guitar and vocals
-Beard on guitar and vocals
-An unnamed Female Drummer

Here’s Solid Foam in action:

Among the recurring segments on the show were “Bootsie and Brad”, a Barbie-esque fashion doll and her clingy Ken-like boyfriend, played by human actors Jennifer Lee and Andrew Wilson, and “Merlin the Magician, M.D.”, a variation on the “Veterinarian’s Hospital” sketches starring Rowlf the Dog as a very Dr. Bob-esque Merlin, using his magic to cure people’s medical problems, making jokes and slinging puns all the while.

MuppeTelevision also tends to get interrupted on some occasions by an illegal TV station called Gorilla Television run by Ubu the Gorilla, Chip, and Zondra.

Diddy Kong

“Give an ape a typewriter and he’ll come up with a new script for Hamlet…with lots more references to bananas! That was a MONKEY JOKE!”

Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy appeared only intermittently, as their performer Frank Oz was busy with a directorial career. Now I’m neutral towards Fozzie; he’s never been my favorite Muppet but I have no qualms with him, however the lack of Miss Piggy didn’t cause me to shed a single tear. I’ll say it: I’ve never been a huge Miss Piggy fan. Miss Piggy has always been one of those characters that I never really liked but just tolerated, like Big Bird (urgh, don’t get me started on that feathered moron). As a kid, it was my opinion that Miss Piggy was an overbearing, over-hyped, scene-stealing, temperamental [RADIO EDIT] who just took screen time away from better and more deserving characters who unlike Miss Piggy, were actually team players.

…But I mean that in a good way. Moving on…

MUPPETS TONIGHT

Muppets Tonight ran on ABC from March 8 to July 14, 1996, with reruns on Disney Channel from 1997 to 2000. As of 2015, it is (as of this writing) the last television series to star The Muppets characters. The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford (one of the band members of Solid Foam from MuppeTelevision) was the host of a variety show on KMUP (mainly because no one else wanted the job). Most of the shows stuck closely to the Muppet Show format of various skits interspersed with some sort of backstage story (usually a crisis). The show featured a laugh track, similar to the one used on The Muppet Show. One big difference between the two shows is that on Muppets Tonight, it was much more common for audiences to only see half of an on-stage act (especially musical numbers), as many acts would begin and shortly afterwards would cut to a backstage scene (or a comment from Statler and Waldorf). Another difference is that while each episode of The Muppet Show only had one or two featured guests, and no additional humans appearing on-screen, many episodes of Muppets Tonight often featured cameos by celebrities in addition to the featured guest star. Some of these celebrities also took part in episode subplots. Also, while it was rare for any scenes on The Muppet Show to take place outside of The Muppet Theater, many episodes of Muppets Tonight had scenes taking place outside of the station.

Trivia Time: On Muppets Tonight, Clifford was featured with Muppet eyes in place of his usual sunglasses, he went back to wearing sunglasses in later Muppet projects as revealed at MuppetFest.

“Yeah, the shades thing. ABC suggested I remove ’em ’cause they thought it looked like I was hiding something. Plus, I got tired of kids comin’ up to me and asking if I was that Cyclops dude from the X-Men.”

New Muppet characters included Miss Piggy’s very, very, very stupid nephews, Randy and Andy, Pepe the King Prawn (making his debut here) and his buddy Seymour the Elephant, elevator operators in the first season and commissary workers in the second, who are constantly hoping to become performers, but their efforts always seem to suffer a mishap of some kind, Johnny Fiama, a Sinatra style crooner who lives with his mom, and Sal Minella, his hot-tempered monkey bodyguard. Among the regular sketches were “Bay of Pigswatch”; “Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine” (a spin-off from The Muppet Show’s “Pigs in Space”); “EIEIO-R”; “Tales from the Vet”, and “Great Moments in Elvis History”.

Here’s the opening:

Not surprisingly, with the theatrical release of The Muppets in 2011 and its’ sequel Muppets Most Wanted in 2014, now fans are hoping that we’ll get a new Muppet series somewhere down the line. While overall I’d prefer to see studios make new shows and properties as opposed to this avalanche of reboots and relaunches, I wouldn’t be against such an idea, although if I can make a small suggestion: maybe in the future Henson Associates could consider not using the totality of the Muppet cast in every single new project. Maybe they could designate say about 3, 4 or 5 central characters and only use them in each project, while the others either take momentary rests or be used separately in their own projects. I understand that HA regards the Muppets characters as a troupe like the Marx Brothers, and that works fine, when there’s only a small number of them. Also, don’t just rehash the Muppet Show formula again. of these 2 shows, I preferred MuppeTelevision because it broke the mold more (plus I just like the high-tech, space age, intergalactic feel that show had), Muppets Tonight, while enjoyable, played things too close to the original formula. Don’t be afraid to change things and mix things up a little; if you just rehash everything, the franchise just gets old and that shortens the life span.

but-thats-none-of-my2

The Couch: Cartoon Gene

Let’s wax about Out of Jimmy’s Head for a bit, shall we?

For the uninitiated, Out of Jimmy’s Head was a live-action/animated television series. It was Cartoon Network’s second live-action/animated television series, the first being Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and was based on the live-action/animated telefilm Re-Animated that aired on December 8, 2006. It was about a kid who after a trolley accident at a cartoon theme park, receives the brain of a deceased legendary animator via a brain transplant (why or how a trolley accident would require a brain transplant is beyond me); the animator happened to possess schizophrenia, and as a result, our young hero ends up with cartoon characters residing inside his noggin which only he can see. The show also featured such hee-larious characters and tropes such as Jimmy’s astronaut mother, who tends to walk around the house in her spacesuit, dispenses dehydrated food pills for dinner and whose daily routine consists of such tasks as blowing up random moons and laser-blasting alien invaders, his father who was like if Goofy came to life as a human being, his adopted sister who was a green skinned space alien, complete with My Favorite Martian style antennae, the mad scientist son of the deceased animator who was hell bent on murdering Jimmy and obtaining his father’s brain so he may gain notoriety as a cartoonist (his companion is bag of money with a dollar sign painted on it which he talks to), and take over the world, as well as stuff like the alien sister’s werewolf boyfriend, cyborgs, criminal grannies, a septuagenarian junior high school student, a preteen animal lover who brings his menagerie of critters to school with him and an opera singing duck. All of that’s fine and dandy except……

OOJH

MOST OF THESE THINGS HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE [BLEEP]ING PREMISE OF THE SHOW!

 

The show was allegedly about a kid who had cartoon characters living in his brain. That’s already wacky. You don’t make the ‘real world’ around him also a zany cartoon, because that only makes the cartoons seem unnecessary and redundant by comparison. If the human world is wacky, nutty and cartoony, then why even have the cartoon characters at all? I personally think the only reason why the Appleday Gang (the toons in question) were on the show at all was to justify the show’s presence on CARTOON Network. The Appleday Gang would typically just pop onto the screen at certain intervals, engage in some little bits o’ business and then literally disappear until they were needed again; rarely if ever did the toons actually play a major part in the stories. There was no reason for the separation of human and cartoon at all on the show, as OOJH was just silly stuff on top of other silly stuff.

Why am I talking so extensively about Out of Jimmy’s Head when that’s not subject of this article? Because it’s necessary for context.

“I know yer thinkin’ ‘Well, when’s he gonna stop beatin’ round the bush? Well I’ll get there when I get there, so there ain’t no need to push!”

You see, years later in 2009, Teletoon, the Cartoon Network of Canada, released a pilot of their own with a similar premise entitled Cartoon Gene, about a teen whose wacky scientist father invented a way to bring cartoon and video game characters to life and somehow got biz-zay with one of them, a hardcore video game heroine named Kitty (played by Karen Cliche–if you watched a lot of bad syndicated TV in the 00’s you may remember Ms. Cliche as Lexa Pirece on the 3rd and last season of Mutant X) and as a result of this odd tryst, is half-human, half-cartoon. (I can relate.) The highjinks ensue whenever Gene’s cartoon half kicks in at given moments, resulting in stuff like idea light-bulbs, rain clouds and hearts sprouting out around him depending on his mood and the situation. AFAIK, Cartoon Gene was never made into a full series, all we have of it is this 3-minute pilot trailer.

Granted, “surviving the high-school” (TM) shtick was very, very cliche (the ’emerging toon powers’ thing was meant to be a metaphor for adolescence, after all, see also X-Men), so while it’s not too surprising that this didn’t get bought, Cartoon Gene did one thing very right: it actually incorporated the cartoon angle into the main premise, whereas OOJH felt like a generic tweencom with some cartoon characters in it, and also unlike OOJH, Cartoon Gene had a more real world-ish setting, so the cartoon style gags stood out more. Plus I liked what I saw of Kitty. (Rawr-rawr.) Also, think about it: Gene’s dad managed to develop technology that enabled him to not only bring cartoon and video game characters to life and into our world, but also make them 3-dimensional, to the point where he could have sex with one and produce a child. How is this guy not a billionaire?? In the real world, nerds and geeks would be beating down this guy’s door for this formula so they could fulfill their lifelong dreams of making love to Wonder Woman, Wilma Flintstone and Judy Jetson.

Was Cartoon Gene a master work? No, but had it actually been made, it looks like it would’ve been a better Out of Jimmy’s Head than Out of Jimmy’s Head turned out to be.