Like a lot of classic cartoons, Underdog has recently come out on DVD, a collection of many of the Underdog episodes, plus a few selections from the supporting cast (Commander McBragg, Tennessee Tuxedo, and the Go Go Gophers) on each of the discs.

It's interesting to read the independent reviews posted on places like Amazon. No small number of them point out the political incorrectness of the Gophers. While I do agree that it's a bitingly racist depiction, you don't hear much talk about an even more politically incorrect element of the whole series.

For those unfamiliar with the show, each Underdog story is broken up into 4 very predictable segments. The first introduces the villain, or in the case of recurring villains like Simon bar Sinister and Riff Raff (how do they keep getting out of jail, anyhow?), reveals the latest scheme -- Sweet Polly Purebred may or may not get in over her head in the first episode. If she hasn't in the first, she definitely does in the second, and Underdog fights his first skirmishes with the villain. However, the villain rarely shows all of his cards in those first fights, and has something up his sleeve to beat the crap out of Underdog in the third episode...and Underdog invariably ends up getting mightily whomped, being exhausted from the fighting in the second episode. In the fourth and final episode, Underdog pops his super energy pill (stashed in a secret compartment of his ring) and, re-energized, unloads on the villain, saves Polly, and all is once more well with the world.

Only a product of the late 60s/early 70s could have gotten away with that plot device. Racism is a bad thing, certainly...but what's Underdog's message to the youth of America? When the chips are down, drugs will make everything better. Underdog feels down and beaten, so he downs a stimulant, and he makes all his troubles go away -- granted, it's by judicious application of fisticuffs. And Sweet Polly is in some serious denial about her boyfriend's drug problem, as he has to remind her every single time that the pill is in his ring. (A secret stash!) This is a superhero?

Give me Ruffled Feather and Running Board any day...but just say no to Underdog.