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Saturday Morning Haunts

JediCole here with another little trip down Saturday morning memory lane.  This time it is Halloween style!  A freind of mine who follows television show DVD releases rather religiously had pointed out to me not too long ago that the old cartoon (which I had up to that point largely forgotten) The Funky Phantom was poised to be released on DVD.  It is a full series set that will only be available direct from Warner Brothers, but hearing that name again after so many years got me thinking of the inevitable presence of spooky themes in Saturday morning entertainment, both cartoon and live action.  So I hope you enjoy a little trip down what for me, and for the most part, will be a trip down memory lane.

Yep.  It was just that bad!
The Funky Phantom was not unfamiliar to me, though at once I did not watch it all the time.  In fact I found it somewhat annoying really.  The premise revolved around the ghost of a Revolutionary War soldier named Muddlemore and his cat.  These two undead spirits aided a trio of teenagers and thier very much alive bulldog in solving mysteries of supernatural origin.  As I recall while it had the flavor and formula of Scooby-Doo it lacked the "old man fill-in-the-blank" endings.  I don't have too strong a memory of this series as the ghost himself, voiced by Dawes Butler (Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss) was one of the least endearing characters in cartoon history.  The show aired in 1971 which is rather ironic since it was five years too early for the concept to bank upon Muddlemore being something of a "Spirit of '76". 

Equally lacking in any redeeming quality was the somewhat similar Goober and the Ghost Chasers, a longer lived series (1973-1975) that was cut from much the same cloth.  If Muddlemore and his friends in the living world were annoying there simply is no word in the English (or indeed any other language spoken today) that could define the unwelcome nature of this particular series.  Again we have a group of teenagers who band together to solve mysteries of the ghostly variety.  A kind of Gost Hunters of their day, only with real ghosts that interact more without benefit of narration by the Dirty Jobs guy and infrared images.   But then cartoons are magic!  They really are!  But I digress.  It is little wonder given the mental digression needed to even speak of Goober and the Ghost Chasers.

Our young sleuths are teamed with a ridiculous tobagan wearing dog who is more articulate than most cartoon companion canines and has the uncanny ability to turn invisible when terrified by supernatural threats.  I am left wondering if the etheral beings they investigated are subject to the same physical laws of light defraction that allows the human eye to be tricked by the dog's suddent translucence (excepting his articles of clothing which remain visible, thus spoiling any practical application of his mutant powers).  In the end this was another revisit to a classic Hanna Barbera formula that was a mainsty of 70s cartoons.  It's not like opinion polls really reached out to kids to see if they thought such things were a little too contrived and a little too repetitive. 

And on that note, no discussion of the super-natural and the spooky in Saturday morning television would be complete without a mention of Scooby-Doo, Where are You and the myriad incarnations that followed.  Some were good to great, some were down right terrible.  And yet the character will not die!  Even to this day the ever-hungry dog and his odd collection of companion humans are out there solving mysteries and preventing greedy old men from scaring people away from lucritive properties that they have every right to exploit for their own gains.  Those "meddling kids" will probably enjoy a place in the public eye for decades to come making them by far the most successful cartoon characters ever to grace the small screen.  And while I could likely go on for days about the multiple itterations of the franchise I am not going to do so.  A mark of my own personal dislike for much of the series as it has perpetuated for decades.  It got its mention and a little more besides.  It is time to move on.

A name that does deserve some exploration is Ghostbusters. Fully eight years before Bill Murray, Dan
Another career hightlight!
 Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis posed the question "Who you gonna call?", Filmation Studios brought The Ghostbusters, a live-action kids show to televisions across America each weekend.  Starring Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch of F-Troop along with a guy in a gorilla suit the show revolved around two human and one simian paranormal investigators who got into all kinds of wacky messes.  It was typical live-action 70's Saturday morning fare with simple plots and lots of gags.  What sets this series apart is the arrival many years later of The Real Ghostbusters, an animated series based on the film franchise.  About the same time this was in production, Filmation countered with an animated relaunch of thier Ghostbusters series featuring the same characters in cartoon form.  If you have ever wondered why there were two shows with almost the same name on Saturday mornings, now you know.

Another Saturday morning program revolving around the ghostly aspects of the supernatural was Beetlejuice, based on the Tim Burton film of the same name, though it took the character in a much different direction.  One that was presumably more kid friendly.  While I am familiar with the show I can't say I have seen more than a few moments of an equally few episodes in my life.  The style of the character designs was most unappealing to me and frankly I did not care to see the cartoon version of a movie I enjoyed but would not put even in my top 200 films of all time.  I simply had no interest in this show, but it certainly fits the theme of this article.

Do I even want to know what is going on here?
Finally I would like to touch on a few shows that fall into the other realms of classic scary characters but not that of ghosts and hauntings.  The oldest is of course The Groovie Goolies, the product of a time when "groovy" was a fairly commonly used word.  Though it is striking that the creators of this show chose to misspell both words, perhaps to make them more approachable to kids.  The characters, based on classic horror movie icons like Frankenstein's monster and the mummy (to name just a couple) certainly were approachable.  They were the kinder, funnier face of the ghouls and goblins that were the stuff of Universal Pictures black and white horror film lore.  And of course, in keeping with their origins with the same people who brought us Josie and the Pussy Cats, these monsters had a penchant for gargage band music.  Or is that castle band?

Yes, Saturday mornings have gone to pot!
On this note there are two other shows that are related, neither of which I have ever seen.  They are Drak Pack (animated) and Monster Squad (live action).  The former originally aired between 1980 and 1982 and featured the teenage decendants of Count Dracula, Frankensteins monster (who must have been cobbled together in such a way to be fertile as must have been "the bride" for them to have such unnatural offspring), and the Wolfman.  I suspect they fought bad guys or solved mysteries on a weekly basis.  And never failed to mention their unique connection to the classic monsters of yesteryear.  I've never seen it so if you can fill in any blanks feel free to do so below.  The other that (thankfully) I've never seen and barely even recall that it existed was the 1976-1977 Monster Squad.  Not to be confused with the movie of the same name which our fearless leader highly recommends (if I recall), this was a stinking pile of weekly manure that was certainly a low point in the career of Fred "Gopher" Grandy. 

So there you have it.  A Monster Chiller Horror Theatre look at some Saturday morning spooky shows that have been an ocassional staple of many a childhood.  Awwwooooooooooooo!  Personally I look forward to the future of this genre as younger generations are incresingly familiar with the new breed of horror.  No longer content to see comical animated versions of shambling reanimated corpses fresh from a mad scientists lab or vampiric noblemen, today's kid wants something meatier. 

So get ready for the 2011 Saturday morning lineup that will knock the socks off of modern children and blow this lot out of the water!  CBS will be premiering The Walking Dead: The Animated Series every Saturday in the coveted 8:30 AM time slot while ABC is countering with George Romero's Zombie Roundup.  Not to be outdone, NBC is hitting hard with Lil' Jigsaw, a series based on the popular Saw franchise of films.   


Some very cool shows there indeed. I own the complete series of 'The Groovie Goolies' 'Drac Pack' and 'Monster Squad', and now that it has just been released in it's entirety I need to get my hands on 'The Funky Phantom'


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