In the earth's vast library of TV-to-VHS material, one of the rarest artifacts anyone can uncover is a taping of a Saturday Morning Preview Special. Now that SatAM can be declared legally extinct, the historical and nostalgic value of these promotional tools have made them more sought-after than dinosaur DNA. But nobody preserved them. Most people simply changed the channel during that one day out of all the year when Urkel spent 30 minutes begging them to watch "Hammerman," except for the intended audience, who couldn't hit "record" because they would get in trouble for messing with Daddy's VCR. I'd say the only thing rarer than one of these specials is, for some reason, an uncut taping of "The Disney Afternoon" because I've never heard of such a tape anywhere. (Come on! Nobody saved that??)
Before YouTube there was Matt Caracappa, who had a VHS stockpile to kill for. A few years ago Matt reviewed a Saturday Morning Preview Special from 1983 (ABC's, hosted by Dick Clark), and I enjoyed it muchly. But Matt made one critical and annoying error: he didn't provide video clips! Out of every bad movie and He-Man episode he'd written about so far, I wanted to see that special most of all. The man let me down, and it wouldn't be the first time.
You already know where this is leading because you read the title before you clicked to this page, so let me cut to the point: a recent tape-trade granted me ownership of a different 1983 SatAM Special, and I'm sharing it with you today. And I won't be skimpy on the video either! By simply clicking some of the pictures, you'll be granted access to every minute! (Except for one part in the middle, but you'll find out why.)
ABC's use of Dick Clark was unusual, because he wasn't starring in any current ABC sitcom. Most Preview Specials used a current network celebrity, to cross-pollinate morning with prime-time and promote everything at once. What was CBS using to counter Clark? Why, only every child's hero....
Yes, it's Boss Hogg in the cigar-chomping flesh, as well as "Sheriff Roscoe" and then Scott Baio thrown in for good measure. And then there's....whoever this guy is:
Maybe it'll make more sense if I point out the special was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. The show's universe is in Hazzard County, within some kind of barn disco party. Maybe it's not actually disco because that was declared dead in 1981, but it sure looks like it. What else do you really call a bunch of people dancing by swinging their arms and legs under a ton of bright flashing lights, to the tune of early pop synth? They could have just been out of touch, despite their best efforts to throw "TO THE MAX" in the dialogue once every five minutes.
This CBS Saturday Morning Preview Special is brought to you by Levi's. Some of my earliest memories of television involve strange things popping out of the Levi's logo like hands, UFOs and a Tarzan knockoff, but until now I thought I couldn't possibly have seen what I saw. No, the tape proved it happened, and it turns out my hazy memories were 100% accurate, because it really is that weird. Why is there a cow in this ad for half a second? Who knows? But it sold jeans, apparently, because to get in my memories this campaign had to have lasted until at least 1986.
Baio appears at the top of the balcony and boldly announces, "Hey, you ever been to one of those fancy Hollywood sneak previews? Well, tonight we will not only have great singing and dancing, but I'll be showing you preview clips of the hottest new Saturday Morning shows! Hey, do I know how to take care of you or what?" The boogie-ing guests erupt in applause. Saturday Morning cartoons? This is the hottest ticket in town!
"One of them is Saturday Supercade, featuring America's hottest arcade stars in hilarious new adventures! Like Donkey Kong, that lovable gorilla! Ya see, he just escaped from the circus! And Pauline and Marry-O are hot on his trail!" Roll that clip!
Saturday Supercade clips are hard to find, made obvious by the fact that every review of this show online is about the same episode. Now that time has changed. Platypus Comix is proud to exclusively present, for the first time since the 80's, a clip of the Donkey Kong cartoon that doesn't involve him marrying a farsighted rich southerner. I couldn't tell you what episode the clip is from, but DK actually throws a barrel in it. It's about time.
"Ooo, Hogg, that looks more
fun than a barrel of monkeys!"
"Oh yeah? Well, yer gonna wind up IN a barrel, ya monkey, unless ya find out what's goin' on heah!"
For whatever reason they have, Hogg and Roscoe don't like the party, and plan to poop it.
The Pitfall cartoon is revealed next. Saturday Supercade had five rotating shorts but only four spaces per week, and Pitfall was left out during the week the "common" episode was taped. Most people, including me, have been curious about what it was like. Well, this was what they did with it: you have Pitfall Harry, Harry's 12-year-old niece Rhonda, and for an unexplained reason, Snagglepuss. Only it isn't Snagglepuss, his name is "Quickclaw." ....But who is anybody kidding; it's Snagglepuss only with a worse name and an eyepatch. And he's not alone; this show was also Xeroxing Scrappy Doo of all characters. Why was Ruby-Spears ripping off some of the most unappealing cartoon stars of the day, and so blatantly? Heavens to Murgatroid.
Roscoe is still under orders to find out what's goin on' round heah. They have to blend in somehow. "Why don't you ask that pretty lady to dance?" Hogg demands, and points at some freak coughing phlegm on her wrist.
"Sooo, cute little thing,
I'd like it if you would be so kind as to tell me what's goin' on
"LIIIKE, WHAT'S GOIN' OOOOOONNNNNNNNNN???" she responds as nasally as possible.
"LIIIIKE, AIR SUPPLY IS WHAT'S, LIKE, GOING ON! AND THE B-52'S, THEY'RE HOT! AND U2, THEY'RE LIKE FAR OUT TO THE MAX, YOU KNOW!" Roscoe makes a note of all this.
Ms. Freak points to his notepad and shrills "AND DON'T FORGET, ASIA IS WHERE IT'S AT! AND S.O.S, AND E.L.O, LIKE WHERE YOU BEEN, LIKE, WOW!!"
Roscoe adds it up. "Air Supply, B-52, SOS, Asia....EEKSH! IT'S A PLOT TO OVERTHROW THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT! OOK EEK OOOK! SHH-SHH-SHOOOOO!" He makes a few more noises with his mouth to keep the canned laughter going a little longer. It actually looks like he's having some kind of spasm, and that's not something a recording should be laughing at.
Next on the list of Supercade Sneak Peeks is Donkey Kong Jr. As I said before, DK Jr. is ripping off Scrappy and he goes everywhere with his traveling partner, Bones, who can't do anything right. In the debut episode, they meet a little girl whose father is "the strongest truck driver in the world." In the next scene that same father is kidnapped rather easily, making her claim questionable.
Corrupt even on a children's special, the only way Boss Hogg won't shut down the party is if he gets a cut of its profits. "Saaay, fifty per-cent!" he proposes to Mr. Baio. "Well, all right," Baio agrees. "WHAT? THAT'S EET? JUST LIKE THAT? You really know how ta take the fun outta life, don't you?" I don't know about life, but he can at least take the fun out of TV specials.
"Gosh durn it, I love
monkeys!" exclaims Roscoe.
"Then wait'll you see Q-Bert!" says the puppet.
"What's a Q-Bert?" says Roscoe.
"He's a Noser!"
"What's a Noser?"
"Aww, jest watch, willya?"
The conversation is as I typed. I'm not on pills or anything.
The Q-Bert clip involves the Q-Bert Gang inside a diner, talking about entering a contest. Q-Bert has one of those discs that you jumped on in the game to float back to the top of the pyramid, and he's going to use it to win the Disc Derby. The grand prize is tickets to the snorkel-nosed equivalent of Woodstock. "All the hottest rock bands are going to be there!" squeals a female Q. "I'm already excited to the max!"
Coily the Snake and his band of rough thingamajigs wouldn't be able to stand it if Q-Bert won anything. "DWAAAA, IS HE GONNA MAKE A MONKEY OUTTA YOU?? HUH?? IS HE GONNA MAKE A MONKEY OUT OF YOU??" slurs the purple thing (it's Frank Welker in his Runt voice, so just imagine that). Coily gets so angry from the purple thing's taunting, he gets up onto the table and....talks about how he hates Q-Bert some more. The censors forbade him from committing any acts of aggression, and I'll bet even making a fist or saying an unkind word was out of the question. It's not healthy for a snake to keep all that bottled up. I hope Coily didn't go home after shooting a day's worth of Q-Bert and take it out on his wife.
"Ya know, I wonder if that sneaky snake is workin' for
Puppet: "Maybe Frogger can find out. He works for a newspaper along with a frog, a turtle and a toad."
Wait, aren't three of those the same species? Only the turtle is different. Ah, forget it.
Naturally they picked the clip from the Frogger cartoon with the situation closest to what you do in the game. This clip doesn't make clear why Frogger is trying to cross a street, but he meets the expected result.
The special has so far covered only one show. Yet somehow there's still a lot of space to fill, so Scott Baio runs onstage and starts singing...for the next five minutes. This is the part of the show I didn't upload for you. You don't really want it, do you?
CBS goaded Charles Schulz for years into allowing a Peanuts show on Saturday morning, but it wasn't until 1983 that he gave in. If you can believe it, Schulz was worried about overexposure. But he also had concerns about letting anybody but himself write for the Peanuts characters; an understandable worry. The compromise was this: The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show consisted entirely of strip material. There were only about 17 episodes made, and the show ran for three years, making it one of the most rerun-filled programs in CBS Saturday Morning history, with or without the character of Rerun.
Now, Scott wants to introduce us to "Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince." One of the earliest pieces I wrote for my site mentioned this show, but thanks to this clip I have to admit I got something wrong. Back in 2001 I wrote "When it's Lassie vs. Benji, Lassie never blasted off into outer space for a portion of his career." Actually, neither did Benji -- the Alien Prince came to HIM.
Wait......look at Zax.
Does this guy look more than a little familiar to you?
Does he compact trash in his gut?
Did Andrew Stanton watch this show as a kid? Hmm....
Oh, right...they're trying to make somewhat of a plot out of this thing. Boss Hogg finally asks Roscoe if he figured out the truth behind the barn disco, and Roscoe says "it's a plot to overthrow the government!" "Aw no, and I got fifty percent of it! I'm an accomplice to the crime! I gotta shut this thing down!"
Hogg runs into the middle of the dance floor and hollers that every single person there is under arrest. The puppet appears in a circle overlay and says "Whoa, under arrest? I hope we can stay out of jail long enough to see Dungeons and Dragons!" Cue another Levi's ad. The Hitchcockian suspense!
When the special returns, Scott has just finished explaining to the Hazzard Fuzz that the B-52's, ELO, SOS, and U2 are all rock groups and not code for a government takeover. And even if you were going to take over the country, how would you get anywhere by starting in Hazzard County? Seriously.
Here, finally, is Dungeons and Dragons. I've only seen one full episode, so I can't pass judgment on it, but its fans say it's better than most 80's cartoons, especially cartoons from the early 80's, when everything had to be soft and safe. The D&D cartoon ventured into exciting and dangerous territory, and even flirted with killing the bad guy off in one episode. If you want this show on DVD, you'd better buy it right now -- the manufacturer just quit business.
We're down to the crumbs now: Scott introduces a long-forgotten something called "The Biskitts" that looks horrible. They're the tiniest dogs in the world, and they guard a king's treasure, or something brain-numbing like that. Just when you think it's all over, the real reason this entire show took place in Hazzard County and starred Sorrell Booke is revealed: CBS made a Dukes-toon!
That cheeses Boss Hogg off to the max. "WHAAT? THEM DUKE BOYS ARE GETTIN' THEIR OWN SHOW?? THEY DRIVE ME SWIMMYHEADED! AN' WHEN I GET SWIMMYHEADED, I GET HUNGRY!!" He yanks his hat off to reveal he's been keeping a hot dog on top of his head the entire time. If you think that's strange, Roscoe's about to do something even weirder.
This was a complete surprise. I know of many cartoons, and I even know of a cartoon where Laverne and Shirley are in the army under the orders of a talking pig, but I've never heard of a Dukes of Hazzard cartoon. Ever. It makes me wonder how long it stayed on.
"Take it easy, Boss. Ya
know, I just love seein' myself in the cartoons."
"YOU'RE a cartoon!" Boss retorts. What a zinger! What are you gonna do, Sheriff?
"Now come on! The weekend's
comin' up, and we gotta set ourselves up some speed traps!"
Are you gonna let him be the boss of you, Roscoe?
What's his response? The only thing that makes sense. "I've had enough, I'm gonna STRUT!" yells Roscoe, and he PUTS A THONG ON HIS HEAD, then bounces off doing some kind of weird maneuver.
I'm not kidding. Roscoe really puts a thong on his head; the proof is in the video. I had a clever way to end this article, but I forgot it already. It's a little hard to concentrate when you see James Best with a thong on his head; cut me a break.
TO THE MAIN PAGE
READ ABOUT SATURDAY SUPERCADE*
*a rock band with a coincidental name, apparently. They were far out to the max!