9/15/08

Saturday Morning TV #2: Those Meddling Kids!

You know the formula - a bunch of kids solve the crime and get the big bad adult arrested. These cartoons all contained the same 4 principle characters: (1) a stud, generally of the beefy variety, who acts as the group's level headed leader, (2) a hot chick, (3) a doofus, usually a hipster of some sort, and (4) a gimmicky comical character like a wacky ghost or a talking shark. If there is an additional character it will be a female, but of an undesirable sort - we'll call this the optional undesirable (5).

The show that set the template was "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?":

(1) stud - Fred
(2) hot chick - Daphne
(3) doofus - Shaggy
(4) wacky gimmick - Scooby
(5) optional undesirable - Velma


"Josie and the Pussycats" follows the template pretty well. Although, it least resembles the formula than the other shows listed here due to the fact that it started prior to Scooby-Doo in comic books before it became a TV series.

(1) stud: Alan is basically a carbon copy of Fred; although, he is not the group's leader
(2) hot chick: Josie
(3) doofus: Alexander was even voiced by the same guy who did Shaggy, Casey Kasem - talk about not veering from the protocol!
(4) wacky gimmick: Sebastian the cat - although, as I mentioned, Josie and the Pussycats predated Scooby-Doo, so the wacky gimmick is not nearly a central character as the other clones.
(5) optional undesirable: the grouchy Alexandra



"The Funky Phantom"
(1) stud: Augie takes beefiness to the extreme in the TV series, less so in the comic books
(2) hot chick: April
(3) doofus: Skip was voiced by the real life hipster doofus, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees
(4) wacky gimmick: Jonathan Wellington "Mudsy" Muddlemore, the Funky Phantom
(5) optional undesirable: none




"Clue Club"
(1) stud: Larry
(2) hot chick: Pepper
(3) doofus: D.D.
(4) wacky gimmick: bloodhounds Woofer and Wimper
(5) optional undesirable: Dotty, who usually helped from home on her computer
In this clip from the show, you can easily see how each character fits their respective formula beautifully. The little computer nerd is just a brainier version of Velma, Pepper is no different than Daphne except for the color of her hair, and D.D. is every bit as dumb as Shaggy (although, a lot less likeable). Notice how the group's alpha male, Larry, takes control of the situation and the wacky talking dogs provide the obligatory comic relief. This is the (5) character formula done right!




"Jabberjaw"
(1) stud: Biff
(2) hot chick: the ditsy Bubbles
(3) doofus: Clamhead, who was prone to shouting "Abba-abba-abba!"
(4) wacky gimmick: a gigantic shark, who sounds like Curly from The Three Stooges
(5) optional undesirable: the abrasive Shelly



"Speed Buggy"
(1) stud: Mark
(2) hot chick: Debbie
(3) doofus: Tinker, he looks identical to Shaggy in every way except wardrobe
(4) wacky gimmick: a dune buggy voiced by Mel Blanc
(5) optional undesirable: none


"Goober and the Ghost Chasers"
(1) stud: Ted
(2) hot chick: Tina
(3) doofus: Gilly - more of an annoying idiot than hipster doofus, and so may not qualify
(4) wacky gimmick: a dog that can turn invisible
(5) optional undesirable: none... although, the Partridge Family were regular guests, so Danny Partridge would more than qualify for this category


Now let's see how much you've been paying attention. Can you name the doofus in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids" - Butch or Wally? How about if I told you that Micky Dolenz provided the voice to Wally, would that help?


In this show, instead of just one wacky gimmick character, there's now two: Elvis, the dog, and Socrates a talking computer (who happens to be allergic to the dog - a running gag). Instead of one hot chick, we have two. God forbid they try to be a bit creative and branch out a bit, dear Lord no. They just doubled the recipe instead.

Where did it all begin? Well, Scooby set the template, but the origins go back a bit farther. The Archie comics exhibit a primitive example of the formula with Archie as the leader, Betty as the hot chick, Jughead as a perfect predecessor to Shaggy, and Reggie and/or Veronica as an abrasive personality the somewhat fits the bill as the fifth principle character.

Around this same time (1968-1973) there were other programs that were popular with the kids. The Mod Squad was a crime fighting team of swingin' youngsters. Also, there was the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family, each a musical family and each spun off into cartoon adaptations. But you can even go farther back when you consider that The Partridge Family was inspired by The Cowsills.


If I were an exec at Filmation or Hanna-Barbera, I'd make a Harry Potter cartoon using the (5) character formula. It would fit so neatly, it almost makes you think J. K. Rowling used the formula herself! All you have to do is make them a bit older (as they did with Pebbles and Bam-Bam) and tweak the storyline a little, like so:

"Harry Potter and the Griffindor Gang"
(1) stud: Harry Potter
(2) hot chick: Cho Chang
(3) doofus: the lovable loser Ron Weasley
(4) wacky gimmick: Hedwig the owl and Hermione's pet cat, the irascible Crookshanks
(5) optional undesirable: the brainy Hermione

J. K., if you're reading this, it was my idea first.

8 comments:

  1. I don't know where you come up with this stuff, but I have to admit I find it truly amazing just how much information you have in that brain of yours. Keep em' coming!

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  2. brian - Appreciate it. Now, if I could only harness this power, the world would bow before me!

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  3. When I worked at Ruby-Spears (Joe & Ken came up with the original idea that eventually became SCOOBY-DOO), the cnocept was referred to in-house as "three kids and a nyah-nyah". Other examples of this genre include THE NEW SCHMOO SHOW and RICKETY ROCKET.

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  4. buzz- "three kids and a nyah-nyah" is hilarious.

    By the way, I hope you realize that in my little corner of the universe you are an A List Celeb.

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  5. Wow. I watched several of these growing up, such as Scooby, Josie, and Speed Buggy. I loved these shows. I could still watch them today.

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  6. Ha! I love your take on Harry Potter fitting the formula. So true!

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  7. Love your blog, but just to nitpick: Josie and the Pussycats doesn't technically predate Scooby-Doo. The Josie comic book had indeed been running since the early sixties, but at that point it was just about Josie herself and her Archie-like adventures. She wasn't musical and there weren't any Pussycats.

    When they decided to make it into a cartoon in 1970, one year after Doo premiered, they added the band at that point in the comic book too and changed the book's title to match the cartoon.

    Filmation's awesomely terrible adaptation of The Hardy Boys does actually predate Doo, however (it premiered one week earlier) and also pretty much conforms to the formula, except it didn't have a nyah-nyah, which may have been why nobody remembers it...

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  8. Nice blog, but there was one thing that bothered me was when you said in the "Josie" section that Alan wasn't the leader, not that i'm correcting you but I've seen every episode of Josie and the Pussycats, and clearly shows that Alan was in fact the leader of the gang due to the fact he came up with all the plans to get the gang out of trouble.

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