I’ve only scratched the surface of Set One (of THREE multi-disc sets contained therein), so it will be a long time (if ever) until I get around to doing one of my “Loooong DVD Reviews” of the entire package. But, I will offer some early observations…
The FIRST EPISODE (presumably the pilot for the series) is unlike any other episode of UNDERDOG that I recall seeing over the decades.
There are FIVE separate segments – 3 Underdog, 1 Go-Go Gophers, and 1 featuring perhaps my favorite character to emerge from the Total TeleVision animation studio … the stuffy, tall tale-telling Commander McBragg – and, unlike that which is to come, none of the Underdog segments are part of a longer, continued story. The three Underdog segments are:
- “Safe Waif”: Underdog rescues a “child” (quotes mine) locked in a bank vault.
- “March of the Monsters”: Underdog finds the almost literal “glass jaw” (well, not exactly a “jaw”) of an army of invading giant robots.
- “Simon Says”: In which we meet evil genius Simon Bar Sinister, whose fiendish device can turn people into flat, 1-dimensional, life-size, black and white photographs. (…Um, what’s a “black and white photograph”?)
The recurring theme in these early entries is that, while Underdog always saves the day, he leaves a great deal of gratuitous property destruction in his wake! Much like this very early SUPER GOOF entry! Unlike Super Goof, however, Underdog is not completely oblivious to the damage he causes – but flies off, dismissing it as “details”. In an odd way, this MIGHT actually make the casual carnage all the more humorous.
In fact, in “Simon Says”, you can actually SEE the upcoming destruction telegraphed – and your advance cringing only adds to the fun. Fun, the type of which, I must emphasize again, that one does not ordinarily associate with UNDERDOG.
Once we move beyond the “pilot” (?), things settle into their familiar pattern.
The next show offers Parts One and Two of “Go Snow”, in which Underdog faces Simon and his “Snow Gun”. Surely, you remember this: “Simon Says… Goooo Snooow!” This is followed by Parts Three and Four of “Go Snow” in Show Number 3.
Each show also features a Go-Go Gophers segment – and the expected adventurous whopper from Commander McBragg!
Shows 4 and 5 follow suit with the Underdog serial “Zot”, where a spoiled, whiny, plus-sized, three-eyed alien princess desires a strong champion for a husband – and sets her sights on Underdog. Go-Go Gophers and Commander McBragg follow along as before.
Odd thing is the Underdog “Pilot” runs for 22:07 (somewhat the norm for a show of this type), while the first four “regular” shows I’ve seen so far clock in at an average of just over 17:00.
This cannot be… and something must be missing. Perhaps it’s because the Commander McBragg segments average less than two minutes each, and other “standard cartoons” run anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes.
According to the liner notes, the third set of the package, comprising the last 14 episodes (and described as “Season Three”), dispense with the short McBragg segments in favor of other TTV “stable characters” such as Klondike Kat, Tooter Turtle, and The Hunter. As these cartoons were more of a standard length, than was McBragg, I’ll presume these shows to have longer running times. It’ll be a long while before I get there, though – because I wanna see ‘em in order… assuming they *are* presented in anything resembling Original Broadcast Order. I’m not familiar enough with UNDERDOG to know that for certain.
One the plus side, these shows are chock full of interstitial segments that you just don’t see on TV anymore, even on the rare occasions that you might find UNDERDOG on Cartoon Network or Boomerang. Even WITH these, they still come up short in length!
I have one “bootleg” UNDERDOG SHOW broadcast from the sixties – and it is comprised of the two expected Underdog segments… and one each of “Aesop and Son” (from Jay Ward’s BULLWINKLE SHOW) and “The Hunter” from Total TeleVision’s KING LEONARDO AND HIS SHORT SUBJECTS.
As the Ward properties are already licensed for DVD, one would figure that they could not be included here – and this may account for the shortfall in running time.
At this point in time, I’m not sure it is at all possible to properly reconstruct multi-segment shows like this – that were “sliced and diced” in countless ways for various syndication packages. And, I’m certain that Shout! Factory did the best they could in reconstructing the original “Underdog Experience”. So, I’m willing to concede this, and give ‘em points for trying.
Longtime friend Mark Arnold and others supply commentary and other Extra Features, including a 20 page (!) booklet in which Mark details the history of Underdog, making this package a worthy addition to anyone’s animation DVD collection.