Saturday Morning: 1970 - VIDEOS
On a cursory glance at the 1970-71 Saturday morning schedule, one would think it was another year of classic children's fare. Yet, on closer examination, one would notice something else about the schedule. It was a bit dull. Oh, there were certainly some classics that premiered during this time -- many of them remembered to this day -- but the rest of the shows were somewhat forgettable.
It was almost like the networks and production studios had run out of steam when it came to Saturday mornings and weren't sure what to do. Understandable, since strict network standards as well as lobby groups like Action for Children's Television (ACT) put a stranglehold on what could and could not be shown. The result was a mix of animated spin-offs and live-action series that were a bit on the bland side. It would be a trend that continued through the first few years of the 1970s.
So, if you have your bowl of Cap'n Crunch on-hand, let's journey back to 1970.
ABC: New Shows -- The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad Show, The Motormouse & Autocat Show, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, Here Come the Double Deckers
Returning Shows -- Hot Wheels, Sky Hawks, The Hardy Boys, American Bandstand
ABC came to the 1970-71 season with five new shows, the most of the three networks. One of these The Motormouse & Autocat Show, was a spinoff from last season's The Cattanooga Cats. Out the remaining four shows, only two of these are really remembered today. The first is Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.
A live-action series, Lancelot Link featured a cast of chimpanzees who could talk, thanks to overdubbing of human voices. The plot featured secret agent Lancelot Link and his female partner Mata Hairi, who both worked for APE (Agency to Prevent Evil), in an ongoing conflict with the agents of CHUMP (Criminal Headquarters for Underworld Master Plan). Like many shows of that era Lancelot Link featured a laugh track, which was removed when the show went into syndication. It also featured a musical segment, hosted by Ed Simian, starring the all-chimp band "The Evolution Revolution." As with many other Saturday morning bands, an album of their songs was released to the public.
The other memorable program to premiere in this season was the Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer (otherwise known as Filmation) production Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down. With a nod towards the Jerry Lewis film The Family Jewels, Jerry Lewis fit right into the slapstick-comedy era of late 60s, early 70s Saturday morning programming. Characters ranged from Chinese detective Hong Kong Flewis and his son One Ton Son to Jerry himself, who went from job to job making a mess of things. Although there are some sites that say the actual Jerry Lewis did many of the voices on the show, that is not the case. While he contributed as a script consultant to the program, the voice of Jerry, as well as many characters, was David Lander, otherwise known as Squiqqy on Laverne & Shirley.
The other two ABC cartoons to premiere in 1970 were not as memorable as the previously mentioned shows. The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad Show was a Rankin/Bass animated program based on the Wind in the Willows series of books. It starred Mr. Toad and his friend Tobias, a 400-year-old dragon who went crazy when he encountered daisies. Here Come the Double Deckers was a live-action import from England that featured the adventures of seven London boys and girls who lived on a double-decker bus. Characters included a geeky, classes-wearing boy named Brains, a drummer named Sticks, and an overweight teen named Doughnut.
CBS: New Shows -- Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, Josie and the Pussycats, Harlem Globetrotters, Archie's Funhouse
Returning Shows -- The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You, The Monkees, Dastardly and Mutley in Their Flying Machines.
While having only four new shows, two of them spinoffs, CBS had a schedule that has withstood the test of time. The two spinoffs, Sabrina and Archie's Funhouse, were both from Filmation studios, which had become a standard name in Saturday morning programming during this time. The other two shows, Josie and Harlem Globetrotters, came from the veteran animation studio Hanna-Barbera.
The Sabrina part of Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies was actually a spinoff from last season's Archie Comedy Hour. Sabrina was a teenage witch who attended the same high school as Archie and the rest of the Riverdale gang. She lived at home with her aunts Hilda and Zelda (who weren't nearly as good-looking as they were on the live-action series that aired in the 1990s) and her cat Salem. Like in the Archie comic books and subsequent television series, Sabrina was always trying to hide her magical powers while actually causing more trouble than good.
The Groovie Goolies were a trio of movie monsters updated for the hipper 1970s. Taking a page out of their slapstick comedy handbook, Filmation made these characters more like the Three Stooges than the scary creatures they were supposed to be. Hence, the reason for the show's laugh track. In addition to adventures that took place around the haunted castle they lived in, this trio was also a band that performed musical interludes during the show.
Archie's Funhouse was another incarnation of the three-year television franchise. Rather than going for the animated sitcom format that they began with, Funhouse was more of a variety program, featuring blackout skits and one-liners interspersed with musical numbers from the Giant Jukebox. There were also segments featuring the Little Archies. The opening and closing credits to Funhouse were interesting as they incorporated the animated band The Archies into a live-action setting.
Even though Filmation seemed to have the monopoly on the Archie Comics characters, Hanna-Barbera actually had one as well in the form of Josie and the Pussycats. A spinoff from the Josie comic book series, Pussycats featured Josie and her entourage as they toured the world performing their music. While on tour they just happen to get involved in a number of criminal and mad scientist plots along the way. Pussycats was incredibly similar to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You in format and characters. For example, fraidy-cat Alexander, voiced by Casey Kasem, was the show's answer to Shaggy. Alan, the blond-haired, bandanna-wearing love interest for Josie, bore an amazing resemblance to Fred from Scooby-Doo
The other Hanna-Barbera entry on the schedule, Harlem Globetrotters, joined Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down as one of the first Saturday morning cartoons to feature animated versions of real people. It certainly wouldn't be the last as this trend would continue for most of the 70s and early 80s. Taking a page from the Scooby-Doo book of cartoons, Globetrotters featured Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Geese Ausbie, and others as they traveled the world. Along the way they would get involved in some sort of conflict that could only be resolved by, you guessed it, playing a basketball game. Of course, the villains of the episode would rig the game so the Trotters would begin losing. However, by the second half of the game the Trotters would come back to win. Globetrotters featured a very cool theme song as well as a number of incidental numbers that appeared on an album released in 1970.
NBC: New Shows -- The Tomfoolery Show, The Bugaloos, The Further Adventures of Dr. Dolittle, Hot Dog
Returning Shows -- The Heckle and Jeckle Show, The Woody Woodpecker Show, The Pink Panther Show, H.R. Pufnstuff, Here Comes the Grump, Jambo
With four new shows under its belt, NBC sported one of the weaker schedules of the 1970-71 season. None of the shows were spinoffs of other series and only one of them, The Bugaloos, is probably remembered by viewers to this day. Another strange creation from the minds of Sid & Marty Krofft, The Bugaloos featured the adventures of a bubblegum-pop band who lived in Tranquility Forrest and were able to fly around thanks to their bug-inspired costumes.
Like last season's H.R. Pufnstuff, Bugaloos featured a number of quirky costumed characters. These included local messenger Nutty Bird, D.J. Peter Platter and the firefly Sparky, who was played by Billy Barty in one of his many appearances for Sid & Marty Krofft. Also like Pufnstuff, The Bugaloos featured a villain in the form of Benita Bizarre, played by Martha Raye. Benita loathed The Bugaloos for their popularity and stopped at nothing to get rid of them in order for her brand of music to become the hit of the forest.