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Pilot Error: More Comic Strip Centric TV Specials

I am still looking at comic strip related TV specials… sigh… lets dive right in.

Remember how much I hated the B.C. Thanksgiving special from 1973?

I might just hate B.C. A Special Christmas a little more due it having NOTHING HAPPEN, just like the Thanksgiving special.

This thing is 24 minutes long and just like it’s 1973 counterpart has only about 8 minutes of actual content. Seriously there are no jokes, no gags and not a damn thing that could be considered “funny” happen.

The first 5 freaking minutes of this is Thor looking for a damn calendar and going from cave to cave asking each character if they have seen his calendar. Not a single attempt at a gag even, just “Hey character name have you seen my calendar? No, okay…” and then moving to the next cave. By the way, the BC character is a cameo in this special which boasts his name.

The “plot” (such as it is) has Peter seeking to con the rest of the cavepeople into giving gifts so he invents the legend of Santa Claus (“the gift bringer should have sanitary claws so lets call him Santa”) and that’s it. He comes up with this scheme and then tells everyone it and then they have Christmas.

Still loaded with anachronistic references such as “Maybe this Santa could ride around in a limo with steel belted radials”.

The entire freaking thing ends with Peter seeing the error of his ways attempting to scam people and… THE FUCKING 3 WISEMEN PASSING HIS CAVE FOLLOWING THE NORTH STAR TO BRING JESUS HIS GIFTS!!!! REMEMBER THIS IS TAKING PLACE IN CAVEMAN TIMES!!! ARGH.

This disaster was actually made for HBO of all places and is just as awful as it’s network predecessor from the 70’s.

Still having no idea how to work good voice acting in one of these this time the main voices are Bob and Ray, a 1950’s radio duo, and they sound completely out of place in a cartoon.

Hagar the Horrible was created in 1973 by Dik Browne and was about the safe and bland adventures of a viking (?) barbarian as he deals with day to day life, family and raiding castles in England and France.

Just like with B.C., the Hagar strip is filled with anachronisms but I find Hagar to be at least readable as a comic strip.

Well in 1989 CBS aired Hägar the Horrible: “Hagar Knows Best”.

Produced by Hanna Barbara this special actually has a point to it and is fun and feels like an actual adaptation of the comic strip… maybe the B.C. people could learn something.

The plot is about Hagar coming back after being away plundering for 2 years and finds that his daughter is intent on marrying a flute playing sensitive man and his son is… they don’t say it but really his son is gay.

He reads poetry, dances and expresses himself in song. This was 1989 code for gay. Anyway Hagar is none too impressed with how un-viking his family has gotten in his absence so he intends to betroth his daughter to the dumbest and slothiest viking he can find and make his son “man up” and stop reading and start being violent. Hagar is really a kids version of Archie Bunker. As the special progresses Hagar sees how he is destroying his kids and that he might just be in the way of history.

Honestly this has a MESSAGE to it and is about tolerating change and very much paints Hagar as the villain. A progressive theme that ignorance and illiteracy are not virtues to be proud of.

All that said it was still a fun special without the message being thrust at you nor being overpowering. Filled with sight gags and physical humor it remained fun all the while delivering a real message that kids might really have understood.

Also being a Hanna Barbara production the animation was smooth and the voice cast was amazing. Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime from Transformers), Lainie Kazan (Veteran of tons of TV series), Lydia Cornell (Sara from Too Close for Comfort) Jeff Doucette (Alien Nation: The Series and just about every 80’s cartoon), Don Most (Eric from Dungeons & Dragons) and Frank Welker.

We end this installment with the most bewildering comic to TV special… The MAD Magazine TV Special (that is the actual title).

Here is the thing… this never aired. It was made for ABC in 1974 but was never broadcast due to a variety of factors… such as the humor being quite adult honestly but mainly as Dick DeBartolo put it “Nobody wanted to sponsor a show that made fun of products that were advertised on TV, like car manufacturers.”

No advertisers meant no financial support which meant no airing.

Really no plot to go over and more of a Laugh-In style mish-mash of sketches which visualized the works of classic MAD artists such as Don Martin, Al Jafee, Mort Drucker and Dave Berg.

Scathing (and actually biting) commentary on the auto industry, parenting, hospitals and a extended parody of The Godfather (The Oddfather) culminating in a brutal bit on racial issues that I was not expecting.

Honestly this is funnier than anything the magazine has printed in the last 30 years. It was really odd to see the iconic art styles of the magazine animated in such a way and yet MAD has always been (at it’s heart) a kid’s magazine while this TV special is anything but.

This would not be the last time MAD would attempt to break the barrier from page to screen. In 1980 MAD (inspired by the National Lampoon) made the horrendously unfunny film Up The Academy.  They were finally successful with the sketch comedy show Mad TV which ran for 15 seasons and the tween animated series, MAD, which lasted for 3 seasons.

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