I was thirteen years old when Pryor’s Place, the Kroffts’ first Saturday morning show for five years, aired. I was not the target audience, I was possibly the most obnoxious thirteen year-old on the planet, and this show had a kid who was breakdancing in it. Well, it was 1984. Lots of kids were breakdancing.
But while Pryor’s Place was tame, gentle, safe, and incredibly boring, its heart was in the right place. It came from Richard Pryor’s sincere desire to be a positive role model and get kids to think twice before they engaged in the self-destructive and stupid behavior of his own youth. So yes, the show meant well, but so do dentists, and no child willingly goes to see one. CBS scheduled the show at 11.30 in the morning, by which time most kids had already been sitting in front of the boob tube for three hours and were ready to go out and play. Sticking Pryor’s Place on at that hour was like taking a broom to the audience.
The episode included on Rhino’s World of Sid & Marty Krofft collection is “Voyage to the Planet of the Dumb,” in which young Richie considers dropping out of school. The episode features small guest star parts for Pat Morita, Pat McCormick, and Marla Gibbs. There’s one moment where some puppet bread tells some dumb jokes, and another moment where two puppet rats – sort of the spiritual ancestors of Zoe and Davenport on Mutt & Stuff – perform like a Greek chorus on the action. Our son enjoyed the part with the talking bread and we reminded him that school is important. That’s our good deed for the night.
This was the Kroffts’ last Saturday morning show for many years. They had success in prime-time syndication with the Barbara Mandrell variety show, and with D.C. Follies, which was occasionally amusing, even if the overall feeling was that it was written by people who thought that Spitting Image was too mean. In 1991, they were back on Saturday mornings with their remake of Land of the Lost, but we do not talk about that diseased beast. They also did some movie with Will Ferrell that I thought was funny. Mutt & Stuff brought them their biggest success in decades, and it’s still going. The new Sigmund and the Sea Monsters had an awesomely good pilot this summer, and the show proper goes into production soon. I hope we’ll be watching that and blogging about it in about six months or so.