The invisible episode, in which the Kroffts employ the still-new technology of chromakey to make people vanish, or half vanish. Of course it’s primitive, but it’s done with such flair that the results really are funny. By the end of the episode, the wand has made Funky’s head and torso disappear, before they turn it on Benita to zap away her legs. Our kid was howling; it’s the same sort of comedy that children’s programming has been doing for sixty or seventy years, and although the results certainly rely a lot less on actors standing absolutely still when you do it on a cartoon, if you’re just relaxing and enjoying the lunacy, it works just fine.
Also, this is the episode that introduces Sparky’s song, “Gna Gna Gna Gna Gna.” I told our son that I didn’t know whether he’ll love it or he’ll hate it, but if he lives to be a hundred, he’ll have it stuck in his head for the next ninety-two years. Upstairs, he’s doing a bit of straightening in advance of tomorrow’s big Spring Cleaning project, and I can hear that he’s singing it to himself. It’s a catchy tune. It was the B-side of a Venezuelan release of “If You Become a Bugaloo” in 1970.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the astonishing Bugaloos Buggy? It was designed by George Barris and built in 1969 and I think it’s the finest of all of his “kustoms.” I’d give my left pinky to own this car, and I wouldn’t even say that about the Batmobile or even the mighty Drag-u-la.
There were a couple of great, great moments in this story that our son howled through. There’s a magical bit where Benita fixes her eyes on the camera and tells all the kids in the audience to scram, because she doesn’t want us blabbing her plans to those bratty Bugaloos. And there’s a “new” puppet character onscreen! Magico the Magnificent is a redressed version of the Judy Frog costume from H.R. Pufnstuf, and the voice is Walker Edmiston doing the Ed Wynn voice that he’d done for that show’s Dr. Blinky.
Until this episode’s actual plot started, our son was enjoying this a lot, but he grew a little bored and restless in the end. Just to be silly, the boy Bugaloos convince the gullible Sparky that October 12 is Joy’s 80th birthday, not her 16th, and that they’re all pushing 70 themselves. This goes on for a while, very amusingly, until Benita overhears them and becomes convinced that they’re hogging the Fountain of Youth. Actually, I thought Benita chugging about thirty gallons of lily pad water over the course of an afternoon was a scream as well, especially since they added the sound effect of sloshing water as she tried to move around, bloated, after that.
Lots of the gags in old kids’ shows like this are rooted in the pop culture of the time for the benefit of any parents stuck watching this silliness, so there are usually little throwaway references or jokes from Laugh-In or Hee Haw, like we saw last time. But there’s a quickie reference to a place called Sun City that I never would have caught before last month. By chance, writer Mark Evanier fielded a question about a pair of TV specials called Sun City Scandals, clarifying the next day that the name was used for some well-known retirement communities like a big one in Arizona, and it didn’t have anything to do with that big casino in South Africa. It’s one of those things that grownups in 1970 might have known, just like the South Africa Sun City is one of those things that teenagers in 1985 might have known.
In the dopey old kid shows of the sixties and seventies, you used to see a lot of what I call a “magic path plot.” That’s when a character wants something, is prevented from getting it in one episode, and never mentions it in any other episode. I call it that because Sid and Marty Krofft used it a couple of times in H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville, where the heroes’ “way home” was blocked by the villain in what appears to be a temporary, one-episode setback, but the heroes never bother trying it again.
John Fenton Murray does this plot from the villains’ perspective in this story, which also features Martha Raye doing a really funny ten-words-a-second parody of the sort of cornpone characters that audiences would have seen on Hee Haw at the time. It’s a best-not-to-think-about-it story where Benita decides that the way to fly is to cut off one of the Bugaloos’ wings so that she can wear them. So she has a goal, albeit a gruesome and grisly one, and it’s stymied because I.Q. is rescued by his friends, but unless I’m misremembering, Benita never tries to kidnap our pals for their wings ever again. She just goes off the idea between episodes. Every other time, she will have short-term goals: win a beauty contest, get on Peter Platter’s show. You’d think, having set her mind to something like this, somebody would need to tell her “this will not work; you cannot fly by wearing other people’s wings on a backpack,” otherwise she’d just keep doing it.
You’d probably also think that I might be overthinking things a bit. I should probably repeat to myself that this is just a show and I should really just relax.
To put this into perspective for readers in the future, this was the weekend we were meant to go to Atlanta, but the trip’s been postponed. And next weekend’s trip to Memphis has been cancelled. This was the first disruption weekend of the coronavirus, so we stayed home and read books and watched TV.
With a Saturday morning free, we watched another episode of The Bugaloos from Rhino’s blurry collection, and our son enjoyed it a lot more than the previous one. This time, Sparky gets a celebrity crush on that famous firefly Gina Lolawattage, who’s scheduled to sing live on Peter Platter’s evening show. Benita sends her henchrat to kidnap her so that she can get called up as a last-minute replacement. Our kid really liked this one because of all of Sparky’s nervous stumbling, and the rather funny conceit that when fireflies in this world get all a-flutter, their tail lights turn red and they blast out smoke. Turns out the mating habits of big fireflies makes for good, silly kidvid, especially when you’re eight and really love fart jokes in the first place.
Proving that I never had much connection with the sort of people who waited impatiently for a new Harry Potter book and rampaged through it in a single night, having tracked down a reasonably-priced copy of Rhino’s out-of-print Bugaloos set, my son and I are watching the episodes at the rate of about one a month. And proving that my head might not be screwed on straight, here we go watching the episode where Caroline Ellis dresses up in a maid costume, a sight which has probably been making lustful teenagers spontaneously combust since 1970, and I give you a picture of John Philpott with some silly glasses on instead. Well, it is his episode.
Our son honestly runs a little hot and cold with this show. He enjoyed the absolute daylights out of “Our Home is Our Hassle,” which we rewatched last month, and guffawed all the way through it. “Courage, Come Home,” written by John Fenton Murray, is an amnesia story, and I guess my boy has reached the age where he’s seen one amnesia story and has realized that he’s consequently seen all amnesia stories. Another factor might be that instead of starting with some gags and silliness and taking a break for a musical interlude, this episode begins with our heroes singing their lovely bubblegum song “Come Away With Us.” I think it’s a pleasantly sunny piece of period pop that easily stands up alongside hits of the day by the Archies or the Cowsills, but he was ready for the show to get moving already.
So eventually Courage loses his memory thanks to a whack on the head in a storm, and Benita convinces him that he’s her nephew Melvin and can do all the cooking and cleaning now that she’s fired her incompetent henchmen. It’s really amnesia-by-numbers, although it has a few fun gags like the henchmen forming a picket line and the Bugaloos dressing up like her new staff – a maid, a cook, and a “gentleman’s gentleman,” though what Benita would need with a “gentleman’s gentleman,” we probably don’t want to guess – and it raised a smile or two, but overall this was nowhere close to being as funny as the previous episode.
Proving that good things come to those who wait, and that four years is an eternity in a kid’s development, we sat down this morning to watch the first episode of The Bugaloos this morning. Four years ago (!), we showed our son bootlegs of the first three episodes on YouTube. He liked Sparky the Firefly, but he hated, hated, hated Martha Raye’s villain, Benita Bizarre. This morning, he could not believe that he ever found her dopey character frightening. He had one good laugh and several chuckles. He wouldn’t say that he really liked it, but it was an acceptable and silly Saturday morning distraction.
As for me finally obtaining a legit copy, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been hunting high and low for one, but I have kept an eye open. Second-hand copies of Rhino’s old DVD set are typically offered for between $120 and $250 on eBay, although I don’t believe very many are actually being sold for that price. There’s a lot of Crazy Grandma Price Guide action on eBay. I bet some algorithm pushed one that high and now everybody with a copy thinks that’s what the set is “worth.” I finally landed one in extremely good condition for $30, which feels much more reasonable.
Sadly, the only real disappointment in looking at this noisy, silly, and incredibly lovable show is realizing that it isn’t just the YouTube bootlegs: like the rest of Sid and Marty Krofft’s ’70s videotape productions, the master tapes of The Bugaloos are in terrible shape. The colors are badly faded and there are several places with some picture interference. It’s a real shame that these weren’t kept in better condition. The high cost of restoring these to their original, incredibly colorful presentation would probably be far more than the return.
A really quick-ish recap: The rarest Sid and Marty Krofft production is 1979’s Krofft Superstar Hour, which was hosted by the Bay City Rollers and co-written by a fellow I admire a great deal, Mark Evanier. The Hour comprised two shows-within-a-show, Horror Hotel and Lost Island, and unless you watched these episodes at the end of 1979, before NBC cancelled the Hour, then the only way you could have seen them is thanks to the bootlegging efforts of the Bay City Rollers’ fan base. Horror Hotel and Lost Island were never merchandised on coloring books or lunchboxes, they were never repeated, they were never syndicated. One, and only one, installment of Hotel has ever been released on home video, and we wrote about it in this post from last year.
So ten years after the Hour was axed, and with half-formed memories of the one Lost Island segment that I saw as a kid still bothering me, I often wondered what the heck that show was called, because I couldn’t remember. And one day in late 1989, I found the answer. It was called Chaka and Wolf Boy, apparently. Continue reading “Chaka and Wolf Boy (1979) (allegedly)”
We’re very sorry to hear that actor Chuck McCann has died. He was also a writer and TV presenter, and an omnipresent face in the 1970s, with appearances on everything from commercials to Columbo. I knew him best as Barney in Sid and Marty Krofft’s hilarious Far Out Space Nuts and was really sorry to hear that such a funny, popular guy has left us. Our condolences to his friends and family.
We learned yesterday that the favorite son of the great town of Sylacauga, Alabama passed away. Jim Nabors was best known for his role as the nasal-voiced Gomer Pyle, a character he played for seven seasons across two hit CBS series in the 1960s, The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC. Later on, of course, Nabors starred as the android Fum in Sid and Marty Krofft’s The Lost Saucer for ABC. Nabors was not particularly enamored by The Lost Saucer, and while it honestly isn’t one of my favorites either, every episode features he and his good friend Ruth Buzzi doing something really funny together. Our condolences to Nabors’ family and friends.
I can’t believe it’s over already! Since we don’t watch enough modern television to warrant subscribing to any streaming services before now, and since I’ve always preferred to slowly enjoy episodes over the course of several nights, I’m not really a “binge” kind of person. For anybody who stops by this post in the future, I’m writing this on the weekend that season two of Stranger Things dropped, and I’ve seen death threats levied at anybody who posts spoilers today or tomorrow. I guess I’m a little old-fashioned.
Well, we hope that’s not going to be all. These new episodes were incredibly entertaining and we laughed out loud several times during each one. These last two are also really good. Episode six, “Sigmund and the Sand Castle Contest,” sports a dual plot, with Sigmund belching up so much of his defensive “blue goo” for use as a fixative in the kids’ sand castle that he becomes ill, while Slurp adopts one of those Roomba robot vacuums as a pet, also called Slurp, and panics when the batteries run out and he needs a human pet “fixer.” In episode seven, “The Treasure of Sigmund’s Madre,” the kids all have to negotiate with the sea monsters for a huge drum of gold coins in the hopes of raising money to keep Aunt Maxine’s restaurant afloat.
I hope the show’s done well. I don’t know how Amazon measures these things, but I think it is certain to appeal to modern kids, if our six year-old’s response is anything to go by. He loved this completely and I hope we’ll get some good news about a renewal soon. The series does end on a small cliffhanger, which is really the only complaint I have about the whole shebang; I really wish that producers would not do that unless they’re certain they’ve been picked up for another run. So renew ’em, Amazon, and ask for ten or thirteen new episodes next time!