Saturday, July 04, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons - More Superheroes... Sort of

In the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s, Saturday morning cartoons gave us an odd assortment of heroes and superheroes to follow. Some figures from franchises that had been around for a long time, rehashed in watered-down cartoon form, some were plundered from the pages of comics (and not always the best pages, either!), while others were invented purely for the tube to run between commercials for hyper-sugared cereals and action figures. But we watched them all, because when you're a kid, it's all good... and because we didn't have much of a choice, because at that hour, if you were home instead of at hockey practice (not my thing) or out delivering the Saturday morning newspaper to the neighbourhood (which I eventually did for a couple of years), then it was probably still a bit too early to go out and play with your friends, so... TV.

In today's Saturday morning cartoon rewatch, I've found openings to a group of radically different shows featuring a very diverse group of heroes: The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour, The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show, and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. Hey, I said this batch would be diverse, not good.

The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour was a lot of fun back when I was 8 or however old I was when this collection of cartoons was on the air (the 80s were big for "adventure hours", combining 2 or 3 different shows, occasionally related by theme, into a single programming block to keep kids glued to a particular channel). These days, I can look back on this trio of shows and see how, at least in the current entertainment era, they might be more problematic, being potentially offensive to different groups. That said, they did offer a lot of action and adventure, and the occasional dose of science fiction or fantasy elements, and lessons on "doing the right thing" at a time when Saturday mornings were sometimes dominated by more cutesy fare.

Did I mention "superheroes" in this posts's title? Yes. And while, admittedly, they don't have super powers per se (although you might make an argument for Tarzan having beyond-normal abilities to communicate with animals, or Zorro and the Lone Ranger and Tonto being able to survive falls and do other stunts that would probably kill a regular person), we can give them honourary superhero status for being old-time proto superheroes — the examples who would go on to inspire their more powerful descendants, like Batman and Ironman (in fact, wasn't the Green Hornet, an early superhero, supposed to be related to the 'Ranger in some way?).

And speaking of superheroes, sometimes things got a little weird on Saturday mornings, when cartoon producers tried to combine superheroes with subject matter that was silly and kind of cute. Hence Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, wherein three young women thaw out a club-wielding prehistoric superpowered hominid of some sort, allow him to build a cave on top of their minibus, and adventures (and supposedly hilarity) ensue. Now, a superpowered hominid I can believe, but a cave on top of a minibus? That's pushing it. I will allow, though, that the Captain was pretty funkified in that leopard-skin cape.

And lastly, leaning a little more towards traditional superheroes, but nevertheless overly silly, there was The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show. I wanted to like this show, I really did, but I never got the chance to watch more than 2 episodes of it. The show started running the winter when I was enrolled in skating lessons (I was 5 or 6 at this point, and a lot of other kids were already starting beginner-level hockey), which, inconveniently for a young cartoon-lover like me, took place first thing Saturday morning. This was a double whammy: not only did I miss-out on Plastic Man, but I never did learn to skate that well. Hardly at all. Bad ankles at the time. Even braces in my skates didn't help. Couldn't turn very well, the only way I could stop was by crashing into the boards, and let's not even get into skating backwards. Some Canadian kid, huh? Anyway, looking back on it, I don't think I missed much by missing-out on Plastic Man... none of my little friends talked about it on the playground at the time, and watching the YouTube clips now, it doesn't look like it was successful as a comedy or adventure. But wanting to watch, and yet missing, the damn show, left an impression on me, so, here we go:

One question: the goggles I get (he's a superhero, goggles are an acceptable accoutrement), but what's with the short shorts? Reed Richards never showed off that much leg.

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