Following up my old Casper and the Angels writeup, here's a listing of the crappiest Hanna-Barbera cartoons of which I have personal experience!
My rating scale is measured in percentages of Yogi. 100% of Yogi means as good as the old Yogi Bear show (which was not bad, but not often good). 0% means only interesting to laugh at, as opposed to with. Take note, a show with a low Yogi rating is sometimes more watchable than a show with a high rating, because really awful cartoons are so often unintentionally hilarious. Especially, so I've been told, when you are stoned. Most of these these things can now be found on Boomerang, while The Tick continues to languish in obscurity anywhere that's not Canada. There's no justice.
Negative points: Babu (the ultimate bumbling character), omnipotent characters (two this time), sitcom tie-in, fake Scooby (?),altered premise.
What if Jeannie, from I Dream of Jeannie, were a cartoon, had a bumbling apprentice genie sidekick (almost all of these cartoons have sidekicks in some way) and her master was a teenager who traveled a lot in that vague Scooby-gang way? The problem with genies in any sort of story is the great tendency towards deus ex machina. Why not snap your fingers and wish for a plot resolution? Because the hero isn't imaginative enough, that's why. I don't remember an awful lot of this one because after it left network TV it almost vanished, but if you watch The New Scooby Movies often enough you'll catch a cross-over episode with the Jeannie gang. (That's not the last time you'll hear the word "gang" in this writeup, by the way. Buckle in folks, we're in for the long haul.)
Rating: 20% Yogi. At least Barbara Eden's doing the voice, and she's still kinda hot in that flat-colored cel-painted way. But Babu is not easily forgiven. Expect jihad in short order.
Laverne & Shirley
Negative points: sitcom tie-in, altered premise, army life, and the pig of my dreams.
Laverne & Shirley, either before or after their work in that bottling plant or wherever it was in the opening credits of the sitcom joined the army, somehow. What is it about Laverne & Shirley that just shouted out to the creators of this show, "ARMY LIFE?" As with many of these H-B cartoon updates of sitcoms, few other elements of the cartoon survived. I don't remember if Lenny and Squiggy made it into the show, and can't decide if it would have been better or worse if they had.
Since my discussion of this show in the Casper and the Angels writeup I've found a little more information on this show, last seen by me when I was around six years old. The shrimpy, talking porcine animal that was always bossing them around was the pet of their sergeant. Anyone still reading Beetle Bailey knows how wrong it is when the sergeant's pet is given military rank and starts walking around on two legs. I hated that little porker. I was six years old and I hated that piece of Scrappy bacon. Such hatred. Why couldn't have Judge Doom have dipped him instead of that shoe-toon?
Rating: 10% Yogi. Astonishingly awful, and that damn pig grates even unto the present day, but because of rights issues with the sitcom he'll probably never be seen again. That's a goodthing.
Mork & Mindy
Negative points: Say it with me now, sitcom tie-in, (slightly) altered premise.
Well at least it's not such a stretch this time. Mindy's still around, and Mork's attending class at a local university, but it's the same town. I think the addition of an alien Robin Williams would be the only way the student body of my own local university could be made any more diverse. I rarely watched this show when it was on so there's not a lot more I remember.
Rating: 50% Yogi. Still bad, but it could have been worse. According to the IMDB that is the voice of Robin Williams. He wouldn't even do the voice of Genie in the television version of Aladdin. And yet, we have both Patch Adams and Death to Smoochy. Damn his Morkish soul straight to hell.
The Fonz & The Happy Days Gang
Negative points: sitcom tie-in, (extremely) altered premise, animal sidekick, time travel, around the world, quest, bumbling, and The Fonz himself.
Just.... oy! The Fonz, Richie Cunningham and, of all people, Ralph "Bloody" Malph travel in time, with the help of a bumbling future girl named Cupcake. At least, I think she was named Cupcake, it could have just been what the Fonz called her. I remember her going to pieces when around The Fonz. She may have had magic-like powers, I wouldn't put it past them. Anyway, The Fonz had a pet dog named Mr. Cool that accompanied them. We put a man on the moon, but they couldn't prevent H-B from naming The Fonz's animal sidekick Mr. Cool. Weep for our kind.
Rating: 10% Yogi. All the sitcom characters are voiced by their original actors, giving Mr. Cool, because of Ron Howard voicing Richie, a television-inclusive Bacon Number of 3. Just think! A voice actor on this show directed Apollo 13! Thinking about that hard will either elevate your consciousness or make your head explode. With me, it was the latter.
Casper and the Angels:
Negative points: Almost everything, but for the record: in space, fake Scooby, altered premise, unnecessary cartoon update, privileged vision, inaccurate space travel. The best thing about this show is Casper. That should tell you something.
I consider this to be the pinnacle of lame Hanna-Barbera output. I've already written about this amazing mishmash of ill-advised ideas, in which Casper the Friendly Ghost and a sidekick are in the future helping two policewomen on jetbikes in air-filled, gravity-laden Silverhawks outer space solve crimes like some sort of whispy Scooby-Doo. And, again, you will die inside when you hear Minnie say "Golly Galaxies" in that high, cracking voice. Like breaking your arm in two, then taking the splintered end of the bone in the stump and scraping it against a blackboard.
Rating: 0% Yogi. Amazingly misguided.
Popeye (many versions)
Negative points: unnecessary cartoon update, stuck in the shadow (of Fleisher Popeye), army life, around the world (Popeye's Treasure Hunt), spurious offspring & altered premise (Popeye & Son), blah blah.
The greatness of the original Popeye shorts overshadows all of H-B's attempted updates. These are almost forgotten these days, even the Internet Movie Database doesn't mention them beyond Popeye & Son. One of the shorts included in one of the series' involved Olive Oyl and "Alice the Goon" (?) in the army. What the hell is it with Hanna-Barbera and WACs?
Rating: 5% Yogi. This would have been 10%, or even 20%, if the Fleishers' output didn't put them all to such mountains of shame.
Negative points: Copying a video game, copying The Flintstones, sitcom plots, bumbling characters (x5) and whatever the hell was up with that Mesmeron fella?
Next up on H-B's long list of crimes against animation is Pac-Man, in which a highly abstract arcade maze game is projected onto the The Flintstones. Pac's job is essentially forest ranger here, a yellow, rotund Ranger Smith, to protect that Pac-national treasure, the Power Pellet Forest, against ghostly encroachments. The whole chomp -> eyes -> box -> ghost sequence is explained by the ghosts getting their clothes consumed by the yellow blob, leaving the eyes (which contradicts the arcade game's intermissions, by the way). The workings of the Pac-Human digestive system must be assisted by the pellets, enabling them to digest fabric. The source of those clothes is the weird part. They're kept on a big clothes rack in "Mesmeron's Lair," and Mesmeron is a huge humanoid guy with a bald head and a Darth Vader-style respirator grate over his mouth. He seemed to be the brains behind the ghost attacks, but.... eh, screw it, I've wasted too many words on this already. Time for final notes. Pac is joined with Ms. Pac-Man (a.k.a. "Pepper"), the generically-named Pac-Baby, two pets Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss, P.J. (some sort of local kid), Super Pac-Man, and many other assorted characters. The Pac-Man cartoon show actually went full-circle, somehow inspiring a Namco-produced arcade game, Pac-Land, with H-B-looking character designs and with cameos by the cartoon show characters. Like the show, it's not bad, but it's not quite good. These days, the only televised hint that this cartoon existed is the sometimes-aired Pac-Man holiday special that sometimes surfaces around Christmas on Cartoon Network, but Mesmeron's not in that one.
Rating: 50% Yogi. Actually one of the better H-B shows of the type. If you're going to copy something, make it The Flintstones. Notice that this is still only half a Yogi, however.
Negative points: Massive crossovers from many other Hanna-Barbera shows, bumbling characters all over the place, around the world, quest (sort of), and so, so arbitrary.
This is a variant of Wacky Races, which was too good (by a small margin) to make it into this writeup. Instead of a bunch of generic characters racing Dick Dastardly and Muttley (or one of their twins, like Mumbly and the Dread Baron), the show is about an athletic competition between three teams composed mostly of classic H-B characters, the "Yogi Yahooeys," (classic funny animal characters) the "Scooby Doobies," (more recent, realistic characters) and the "Really Rottens" (bad guys of every stripe). The show was about as good as the term "Yogi Yahooeys" would cause you to suspect. Featuring a large number of villains made the show a lot worse than Wacky Races (which wasn't really that great) because that entire show was really about the villains, Dastardly and Muttley. They were the show. There was no other reason to watch. The other characters existed only to continually foil their admirably villainous plans. The original version of this show was two hours long folks, and existed as a gimmick to try to keep kids tuned in during a collection of other H-B shows. No wonder so many people who grew up around that time are so messed up.
Here's the thing that bugs me about this show above the others on the list. Between the "events" in their pitiful little pseudo-olympics there's a scoreboard that tallies up points won by the teams. The viewer's supposed to note how many points each team has earned, who's ahead, who's behind, etc. "Oh, the Doobies have 40 points!" But of course, not only the outcome of the events but the very scoring system itself is completely arbitrary. They're cartoons for crying out loud. The outcome is more fixed than professional wrestling. I don't get the point.
This show is rather difficult to watch these days. It's just pointless and boring. I can't even bear the thought of it from a kitsch standpoint, or to make fun of it. Keep it away.
Rating: 10% Yogi.
The Harlem Globetrotters
Negative points: sports team crossover, moderate levels of goofiness, animal sidekick, around the world, no original voices.
This series has almost been written out of history, not even getting much airplay back when Cartoon Network showed old H-B stuff. Every episode the Globetrotters would travel to a new town in their bus, driven by Granny, with their sidekick dog whose name there's no chance in hell I'll be able to remember now. Every episode had a basketball game, in which the Globetrotters would be behind up to the end of the first half (they used the same scoreboard graphic for every show) but come from behind using their peculiar, rule-bending form of basketball prowess by the end. The ref must be blind. Two episodes of The New Scooby Movies feature the cartoon Globies. All of the characters have voices provided by cartoon central casting, most notably Scatman Crothers, of Jazz from Transformers and Hong Kong Phooey fame.
Rating: 10% Yogi. Head-scratching.
The Super Globetrotters
Negative points: See above, plus a basketball-shaped satellite, superhero identities for every Globetrotter (including all three from the already terminal The Impossibles), around the world, fake Scooby, and despite all this, the same damn plot as the first show, except now somehow winning basketball games saves the world.
Oy. The superhero identities of the Trots are Spaghetti Man, Multi Man, Sphere Man, Gizmo Man and Fluid Man. This actually got fairly recent air play on Cartoon Network as part of their 70's Super Explosion block from some years back. The commercials for that were hilarious, and pointed out exactly how rancid the featured cartoons were. By the way, Meadowlark Lemon is nowhere to be seen in this. I guess he thought the show was beneath his dignity. And yet, not long ago I spotted a small inspirational program starring him on some random Christian network. How's that taste, Lemon?
Special bonus travesty: according to http://www.hlla.com/reference/hanna-chron2.html, Hanna-Barbera once produced a special called The Harlem Globetrotters meet Snow White. Wasn't there some warning about that in the Book of Revelations, something about the rivers running brown with crap?
Rating: 0% Yogi. Composed entirely of molten assrock, to be consumed only in the presence of marihuana.
The Partridge Family
Negative points: In space, sitcom tie-in, fake Scooby, and plus, they're the Partridge Family.
The eponymous family was in outer space. Do I really have to say more? I don't remember a whole lot about this, there's a big black square in my memory over where the TV would be, but I do remember that I've seen it. If I had seen The Brady Kids, which sounds like a real winner, that'd probably be here too.
Rating: 10% Yogi. At least it was them doing the voices, but I do remember being bored out of my little preschool skull watching this.
Josie & The Pussycats in Outer Space
Negative points: In space, altered premise, secret missions, sidekick.
The basic cartoon was okay. This, however.... What was it about Hanna-Barbera that caused them to assume that no licensed characters could work on their own, unadjusted? Did they really think Archie Comics' girl band needed to tour in outer space, or that Popeye needed a son, or the Bradys needed a treehouse and no parents? Anyway, yeah. Think interstellar Jabberjaw without that shark that thinks he's alternately Curly Howard and Rodney Dangerfield. I don't remember it, but http://www.q-design.com/Thwack/shmoo.htm says there was an annoying alien sidekick, too.
Rating: 10% Yogi.
The Bionic Stooges
Negative points: Altered premise, secret missions, bumbling characters (x3), stuck in the shadow (of the real Stooges).
The original Three Stooges shorts, I mean the actual live-action shorts done in black-and-white, those were great. The Bionic Stooges, I mean this damn cartoon, this is not.
Rating: 10% Yogi. Sickening.
Negative points: animal sidekick (Rosco's Flash has been somewhat anthropomorphized), around the world, quest.
Will this list never end? It's a cartoon edition of The Dukes of Hazzard, as if there weren't enough episodes of the live action show! The show's first season took place during the Wopat-and-Schneider feud with the producers in the real show, the one that caused Bo and Luke to be replaced with Coy and Vance for a year, so the first season of the cartoon was similarly adjusted. The second season saw the return of Bo and Luke in both the live-action show and the cartoon. Neither make for particularly healthy viewing today, but as far as Hanna-Barbera TV updates go this is among the more faithful, although it still features a trip-around-the-world premise, I think as part of a race. (I guess that's why they're not "Of Hazzard" in this, heh.)
Unfortunately, when this first aired I had yet to get my hormones in the mail, so I took absolutely no notice of the specifics of Daisy Duke's shorts in the animated version, so I can't give you the low-down on their interest factor. Damn it all.
Rating: 40%, for having the real voices and for not warping the premise too badly.
The New Shmoo
Negative points: stuck in a very large shadow (Li'l Abner), true Scooby (?), very altered premise, sidekick, and the shmoo.
Ah, the shmoo. These little two-legged blob creatures were, at one time, a national craze, back when there weren't nearly as many crazes as there are now, back when creating demand wasn't largely a matter of filling in values in some blasphemous marketing formula. Now, the shmoo is all but forgotten. In the brilliant Li'l Abner comic strip, the shmoo (plural: shmoon) was the solution to all of mankind's needs and wants. They naturally produced milk, eggs and cheese, all in packages ready for consumption. If looked at with a hungry look in the eye they'd perish from happiness, and cooked different ways converted their flesh into entirely different meats. As the saga of the shmoo continued it became evident to Abner and the other residents of Dogpatch, in which the strip was usually set, that shmoo dried out and sliced made perfect house-building lumber, their whiskers could be used as toothpicks, and they were even more entertaining than television, spontaneously acting out their own impromptu Westerns and variety shows. They became able to produce a wide variety of foodstuff, including cheesecake and pineapple. They ate nothing, and they multiplied near instantaneously. With shmoos, mankind had no wants, and so first big business and then the government cowered in fear of them. Business hated them because shmoos destroyed scarcity, their supply was exactly what was needed and there was no way to control them, and thus shmoos were everywhere, and there was no reason to pay them for goods and services. The government hated them because with shmoos, no one had need, and thus no one had reason to resort to violence, and thus there was no crime or cause for war, the prevention of which being two of the biggest reasons for government. Both groups in turn organized huge anti-shmoo campaigns, in which the accommodating, if somewhat dense, citizens of Dogpatch assisted, both times almost wiping them out but failing. It was the most biting of social satire made palatable for the masses, a lesson in politics and human nature for millions of readers packaged in the form of an adorable, smiling little white creature that launched an unexpected tidal wave of merchandising.
Hanna-Barbera took the Shmoo, singular, ramped it up to Orko-level annoyance factor, and forced it to solve mysteries with a gang of reporters. They also gave it a shape-shifting ability, even though the original shmoon hadn't purchased that particular character advantage. And now, for my reaction to this--
Rating: 0% Yogi. A brain-dead attempt to cash in on one of the greatest non-manufactured pop-culture crazes.
Fred & Barney Meet The Shmoo
Negative points: stuck in a very large shadow, extremely altered premise, crossover, time travel, sidekick, shmoo.
Yes, before they were done with the abused white blob, Hanna-Barbera did a version of the shmoo even more revolting than the previous one. In it, Fred and Barney were Bedrock police officers, and the Shmoo helps them on cases. I seem to remember he was still a shape-shifter.
Rating: 0% Yogi.
Negative points: ear-splitting music.
For once H-B produced a cartoon that was fairly close to the original. Richie Rich is the only son of a millionare family, and can afford all sorts of stuff, much of it provided by Professor Keenbean, his own personal absent-minded professor. Even in the most dire circumstances he can count on Cadbury, his butler, to deliver all the essentials of the privileged life. Unfortunately, the theme music is filled with a ludicrous amount of Hanna-Barbera Brass, the trumpet-heavy, orchestral nightmare that can also be heard in the openings of The New Scooby Movies, The Superfriends and Laff-A-Lympics. And truth be told, Richie Rich stories aren't all that interesting.
Rating: 90%, but deduct thirty points if you're not wearing earplugs.
Superfriends, et al
Negative points: goofy plots, ear-splitting music, fake Scooby (first season only), sidekicks, Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog (first season), Gleep the Monkey (later seasons), and need I even remind you, Aquaman.
This is the most fondly remembered show on the list. Later episodes had better writing than the earlier ones, but the first was downright laughable. The first season also had Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog as trainee superheroes. One episode showed them with super powers, but they were only displayed during the stupid "off-time" sections. The rest of the time they were exactly as powered as Batman, but with no toys or training. Second and later seasons introduced Zan and Jayna, a.k.a. the Wonder Twins, and their purple pet monkey-thing, Gleep. Bad, but not as bad as their predecessors.
The first season also gave us a Scooby-like story procession, highly unsuited for this kind of show, but at least it allowed Batman and Robin to truly shine. Later seasons put the guys against villains of the week, then Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom, then Darkseid and hangers-on. Not nearly up to the quality of the recent WB-produced series, and shockingly primitive when its animation is compared to the classic Warner Brothers shorts that were aired in close proximity, but about as good as you can get for made-for-TV animation from that period.
Still, that first season is embarrassing to watch.
Rating: Overall: 140% Yogi. First season: 50%.
Altered premise: A show takes pre-existing characters and puts them in situations for which they were not intended. Most of the really bad Hanna-Barbera shows have this.
Army life: The show is set in the army. Often with women, for some reason.
Around the World: The characters travel to different countries. Each episode's in a different "exotic" place. Often combined with other modifiers.
Bumbling Character: A character who's every act is a rejection of the tyranny of success. Many characters exhibit some degree of bumbling. Shaggy and Scooby have some. The dogs from Clue Club have a fair bit. Jabberjaw has more. Babu from Jeannie is almost entirely bumbling, but Orko from Masters of the Universe is the utmost.
In Space: The show takes place in outer space, or more accurately a future in which space travel is common. The future and space premises are closely allied. Here I've lumped them together in a total disregard for proper taxonomy. Often like "around the world," but with different planets instead of different nations. The primary example, of course, is The Jetsons.
Omnipotent characters: The show has someone can do "anything." Minor version: people like Richie Rich's Professor Keenbeen, who can invent highly improbable stuff with negligible investments of time or material. Major version: magic-types like Punky Brewster's Glowmer abomination, Jeannie the Genie, or Shazan, who can, assumedly, do whatever the want whenever they want it, and do not only because of the need to have a story conflict.
Privileged vision: A character can only be seen by the heroes. Kids like this because it makes the protagonists, and by extension themselves, special. Remember Rubik the Amazing Cube? If so, no words can express how sorry I am for you.
Quest: The characters have to do something in order to "get home." Dungeons & Dragons is the textbook example of this. Kidd Video is another one. Still common to this day: Samurai Jack is really nothing more than a really polished Quest show.
Scooby: There are two versions of this. "True" Scooby mysteries are games played with the viewers at home, where, like in whodunit novels, they try to solve the mystery before the characters do. They may appear to have supernatural elements, but they're always explained away (sometimes unconvincingly but in keeping with the laws of the cartoon world) by the end. "Fake" Scooby mysteries follow the same general pattern, but there's no mystery, or there is some supernatural or super-science explanation somewhere. Despite this, the ending often still features the usual take-'em-away-boys, those-meddling-kids endings where local law enforcement carts the villain off-stage in handcuffs. The best "True" Scooby mystery is, of course, Scooby-Doo. The truest "Fake" Scooby series is Jabberjaw.
Secrets: A character is trying to preserve some personal, usually magical, secret from his friends. This is a long-standing adventure cartoon staple. Superhero shows usually feature this in the preservation of secret identities. The Gary Coleman Show is a particularly egregious example of this.
Stuck in the Shadow: Doing a cartoon as an update of a previous work is especially dangerous when that previous work is widely recognized as a classic. You've gotta feel sorry for the Hanna-Barbera employees assigned to update, say, Popeye the Sailor, attempting with their pitiful limited animation to erase the memory of the Fleishers from our minds.
Time Travel: The characters are going to different time periods. Like Around The World in that way. Often gives the characters a Quest to find their way home from the future and/or the past.
The shmoo section is based off of Li'l Abner strips reprinted in The Short Life and Happy Times of The Shmoo, by Al Capp, with a point-missing foreword by Harlan Ellison.