Review by KC Carlson
It’s interesting (at least to me) that the Warner Archive chose to release Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels at about the same time earlier this year. The former was the series w...
Review by KC Carlson
It’s interesting (at least to me) that the Warner Archive chose to release Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels at about the same time earlier this year. The former was the series where I decided to stop watching Saturday morning cartoons (except for the occasional Bugs Bunny episode, when I was actually awake that early), and the latter (along with Laugh-A-Lympics) was the show that brought me back (at least part-time). Both shows were produced by the legendary Hanna-Barbera studio, which ruled Saturday morning TV in those days.
Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! debuted in September 1971 and aired 16 original episodes. Its Saturday morning run ended January 8, 1972 — canceled in the middle of its second season. (All 16 episodes are in this two-DVD set.) The fall it debuted was the year I entered high school, which was my primary reason for leaving cartoons behind (at least temporarily). You know, the whole leaving childish things aside thing… Little did I know…
Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before?
There was a lot that was very familiar about Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch! if you were a cartoon fan. The majority of voice actors were HB regulars, including Daws Butler as fast-talking, scheming Hair Bear, using his best Phil Silvers “Bilko” voice (see also Hokey Wolf); Paul Winchell (Dick Dastardly, Fleegle) as the very confused Bubi Bear; John Stephenson (Dr. Quest, Mr. Slate) as the constantly aggravated head zoo director Mr. Eustace P. Peevly; and Joe E. Ross (“Oooh! Oooh!” Officer Gunther Toody on both Car 54, Where Are You? and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home) as his inept assistant Lionel J. Botch. (Botch. Geddit? Jeepers…) This show was Ross’ first HB assignment, but several more would follow, including Hong Kong Phooey.
Besides the familiar voices, there are a lot of previous HB themes in this show, including animals controlling their “keepers” (Yogi Bear, Wally Gator, Magilla Gorilla, Breezly and Sneezly), animal “gangs” (Top Cat, Banana Splits, Cattanooga Cats), annoying and/or idiotic humans (too many to list, including all the bad guys in Scooby-Doo), and characters that only ran from left to right (or right to left). (Yes, I am messing with you.)
Plus, the show had the first HB theme song that I actively hated. And it sure doesn’t help, hearing it at least a dozen times each on these two DVDs. (Thank goodness for “Next Chapter” remote buttons.) It’s certainly no Flintstones, Jetsons, or Josie and the Pussycats theme.
HB fans of a certain age are huge fans of this show, and I think that’s great. But after all the early HB classics, and after “mature” shows like Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, and The Herculoids (and even Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant — which really needs to be coming soon from Warner Archive), having to jump back into what conservative parent groups of the era thought was best for their youngsters was just too much to (hair) bear. At least for me.
What brought me back to Saturday morning was two things. First was Mel Blanc yelling his head off with the above catchphrase. Second was the still-unmatched concept of teaming HB’s classic characters (Huck, Yogi, Quick Draw), some of the more modern concepts, including (kid-friendly) heroes (Dynomutt, Hong Kong Phooey, Speed Buggy (?!), and Scooby-Doo), and finally a group of HB bad guys called the Really Rottens. The last included the familiar-seeming Dread Baron and his dog Mumbly, the Dalton brothers (Dinky, Dirty and Dastardly) from old Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw cartoons, and the Creeplys, a monstrous family based on both The Gruesomes (from The Flintstones) and Mr. & Mrs. J. Evil Scientist (from Snooper and Blabber and Snagglepuss cartoons).
All three teams competed in Olympic-like competitions — actually, the show was based on ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars, but who remembers that! — with each episode set i