Writer: Bob Ogle
Director: Hal Sutherland
Original Air Date: Saturday, September 14, 1968
For those three of you that might be wondering, no, I didn’t forget the two 1960s unaired pilots; I simply don’t have them. I’m trying to get them, but, for now, just be aware that there were two attempts at making a live-action Archie series in the 1960s: one in 1962 and one in 1964. From what I can tell, they were standard 1950s-style sitcoms: not bad but not great either.
This week, I’m going to take a look at an episode of “The Archie Show“, the first iteration in a long series of cartoons by Filmation Associates, an animation studio that was founded in 1962 in Reseda, California. The studio would later be responsible for much of my childhood: “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”, “She-Ra: Princess of Power”, “BraveStarr”, and, yes, even the shitty “Ghostbusters” cartoon that I watched alongside DiC’s “The Real Ghostbusters”. Filmation was founded by Norm Prescott, Lou Scheimer, and Hal Sutherland, and it had a long life, becoming defunct in 1989, essentially going out with the 1980s. I cannot overstate the importance that this studio had on my youth. It, Sunbow Productions (1980-2004), and DiC Entertainment (1971-2008) were responsible for a lot of the cartoons that I – and many others of my generation – used to watch.
That was the 1980s, though. What we’re looking at today comes way before that.
Filmation got the license to make cartoons based on Archie Comics, and…they did, but the characters weren’t really the characters (outside the very basics that you can read about on the Introduction page on this blog). Corny jokes and slapstick comedy were the order of the day, and the shows delivered.
Yeah, shows, plural. See, the series went through a few iterations, revamping the format pretty much every year and adding some new episodes (or at least a bit of new animation) while also repeating various older episodes from previous incarnations. It’s kind of convoluted, and there’s really no central place where all of this is documented. In the little episode list that I put together for myself, I count 213 stories, and that’s not counting the “Groovy Ghoulies” spin-off with original characters, the short gags between story segments, or the musical numbers.
Yeah, musical numbers. The main Archie characters formed a band called, uninspiringly enough, The Archies (no, there is no origin story; they’re just a band suddenly), and an actual “band” was formed, consisting of singer Ron Dante as Archie (he sang on every song except one), various background vocalists that came and went, and session musicians. Little music videos would appear in the episodes. The Archies actually had a few hit songs. “Sugar, Sugar” reached #1 in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. in September of 1969. It, like the other Archies songs, is standard 1960s bubblegum pop. Why did it become so popular? Maybe because of its ties to the popular cartoon series? Perhaps. It’s also the most-produced recording ever, largely because Post Cereal placed millions of the records on the back of cereal boxes. It’s also been sampled and covered by numerous artists over the decades. The song is still popular to this day, and Archie Comics even continues to have The Archies perform it in the comics, decades after it went out of style.
As for the cartoons themselves, well, they’re all over the place in terms of concept, from standard adventures to the gang running a funhouse (populated with an audience of live-action kids) to the gang running a TV station that specialized in showing cartoons based on comic strips (aside from a “news story” in Riverdale that was mentioned throughout the episode before finally being resolved at the end, these had little to do with Archie) to the gang learning about how their ancestors (who looked and sounded exactly like them, naturally) were involved in one important event in American history after another (the bicentennial was approaching, okay?) to going back to standard adventures at the end. The various Filmation series ran from September 14, 1968, to December 3, 1977, lasting a little over nine years, all told (and, really, not too much shorter than the radio series).
Here is the main voice cast:
Dallas McKennon – Archie Andrews and every male character except those listed below
Jane Webb – all of the female characters
John Erwin (Prince Adam / He-Man himself!) – Reggie Mantle
Howard Morris – Big Moose, Jughead Jones, Dilton Doiley
Look, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: the show sucks. Outside the rare funny line, this is just standard slapstick comedy that, with minimal alterations, could star any generic cartoon characters. There’s not much of a love triangle (which is a good thing, because, even though it’s one of the central set-ups of the comics, the love triangle is unbelievable). The characters are often very idiotic or absent-minded. The animation is cheap and frequently recycled, as was often the case in those days, but it’s very noticeable here.
What I’m getting at is this really isn’t the series to be watching if you want any amount of depth or character exploration, which even the comics provided.
So I think one story segment each of Archie and Sabrina will be sufficient before we move on.
This week, I’ll review the first story segment in the first episode of “The Archie Show”. The two segments in the first episode are untitled, so I’m just calling it Segment A.
“Archie’s here.” But he has no freckles, which some people find weird.
“Hey, Jughead, where are you?”
Anyway, the plot of the theme song is the gang can’t have a groovy time without Jughead. They don’t look for him or anything. They just wonder where he is.
Anyway, we get a panning shot of random people dancing, including this girl that’s shaking her ass in front of the camera.
We get shots of the gang driving, and Reggie’s so into playing and singing that he continues to do so in Archie’s piece-of-shit car, despite the loud noises that it makes. Archie’s car remained consistent for decades, being an unbelievably outdated Ford Model A. It’s yellow here, but it was red in the comics. (The real Ford Model A didn’t come in yellow.)
There’s a repeat of the character introductions with minor alterations (Veronica raises her arms!).
“And here comes Jughead…”
“and Hot Dog, too!” Yeah, Jughead’s pet dog is a “mascot” for the band and a character on this series. We often hear his thoughts.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this series is going to be just a tad silly.
The segment is preceded by Archie talking to “the gang” (the audience, I guess) and asking for ideas on raising quick cash.
The segment proper starts with Archie’s house literally jumping. Why?
Because Archie and his friends are dancing, of course! Yeah, that’s totally what happens when a group of thin teenagers dance in an upstairs bedroom to blaring royalty-free muzak.
Anyway, check out those killer moves. Yeah, no, there’s no way that these fuckers are getting on “Dancing with the Stars”, which accepts pretty much anybody.
Hot Dog hates the loud music.
Hot Dog silently wishes teenagers would bring back the waltz, because that’s something that he, a creature with a much shorter lifespan than humans, would totally remember.
Anyway, through the power of
the music and dancing bullshit, he gets knocked out the window and bounces off a bush.
Fred Andrews is sitting in the living room, reading his suspiciously blank newspaper (not happily).
Fred yells at Archie and runs upstairs.
He puts an abrupt stop to their party and demands to know what the fuck is going on. Jughead and Reggie bullshit a bit.
Betty and Veronica look like they’re ready to fuck Archie in front of his father, but Veronica wants Archie all to herself, which Archie tries to talk her out of (man knows what he wants).
Archie claims they were thinking of a way to raise some money (which doesn’t explain the party), so they can hire some “special entertainment” for their school dance. Fred suggests doing it “on some far-off island”. This gives Archie an idea.
Sooner than you can ask “What the fuck?”, the gang’s speeding off toward a deserted island on Mr. Lodge’s yacht, which he let them borrow for some reason.
Meanwhile, Reggie’s listening in and feeling neglected by Veronica, so he starts cooking up a scheme.
He runs toward Veronica, “warning” her that she’s standing too close to the rail. Veronica’s like “What are you blabbering about, idiot?”
Jughead’s scrubbing the deck (for some fucking reason), which Reggie somehow doesn’t see, so he slips and somehow gets launched high enough to go overboard. Veronica and Archie seem unconcerned. Hot Dog makes a stupid pun.
The yacht stops, and an amused Betty rescues Reggie.
Archie spots their destination:
Shipwreck Island. Really? With such a blatant name for an island that’s not too far off the coast of wherever the fuck Riverdale is, why haven’t these vessels and their cargo been salvaged by their nations of origin – or otherwise pillaged? For that matter, why isn’t there a “Stay the Fuck Away” sign in the water?
Betty finds this a “boss place” to look for sunken treasure. Yeah, that’s Archie’s plan. Not “Ask Veronica to ask her dad for money” or “Have a bake sale” or whatever. Take a yacht out to a deserted island in the hope of finding sunken treasure.
Reggie makes fun of Betty, and she suggests he “dry up”. Ooh, burn!
Archie tells Jughead to drop anchor.
It goes as you’d expect.
Jughead falls to the bottom of the ocean or wherever, and the anchor awakens and angers an octopus. Jughead is somehow able to talk to it underwater.
Jughead swims to the surface, climbs up the side of the yacht, gets in, and warns his friends.
Archie comments on the octopus before it’s visible. The octopus shakes its “fists” angrily and goes back into the water. So much for that.
Later, Archie is gonna swim out to one of the wrecks to search for treasure, which gets the girls wet, which pisses Reggie off. If anyone’s gonna fuck Betty and Veronica, it’s him.
Reggie has a “scene” “planned”. He covers himself in dried-out grass:
He goes off to “toss a chill down the girls’ spines”. What, exactly, is his plan? Just scare the girls? To what end? I think the show’s got Reggie’s character confused. While getting disguised as a monster to scare someone is totally a Reggie thing, he’d do it to scare Archie or Jughead, not the girls. He might get someone else to dress up as a monster and scare the girls, so he could be the hero, but not this.
Veronica and Betty get into a little Archie-related argument. Apparently, they’re in a “club” of some kind, which I guess is involved in the school dance somehow. No explanation is given.
Veronica hears a growl and shouts “A beast!”, which offends Betty. Huh? Why’d she think Veronica was talking about her?
Anyway, the girls find comfort in each other’s arms as the “beast” approaches. They call for Jughead.
But he’s “a coward-type cat” and has climbed to safety.
There’s a stupid gag where Jughead mistakes a coconut for his own severed head, simply because it’s wearing his hat and has a “face”. That…does not work on any plane of existence.
The “beast” scares Jughead, who tosses his hat away but regains it through the power of shitty continuity.
Jughead and the girls run away as the “beast” gives chase. Betty calls for Archie.
Reggie is happy that his plan (whatever it is) is “working like Neatsville” and prepares for the “finale” – “Reggie to the rescue”. Yeah, um, what are you gonna rescue them from, dumbass?
Oh, how about a random monster that coincidentally looks exactly like the fake monster that Reggie dressed up as and wants to fuck Reggie? Sure, why the hell not?
Reggie gets a kinda funny line: “Hold it, chick, I’m not your type! I’m counterfeit!” Sometimes, that’s what the ladies want, Reg. Just search Betty and Veronica’s underwear drawers.
Archie returns, wondering what the fuck’s going on. Betty explains. They see this:
No time for a threesome, because Archie detects “a familiar run” by one of the beasts. He identifies the beast as Reggie. Veronica surmises Reggie tried to scare them, and it backfired on him. Reggie calls to Archie for help.
Jughead advises Archie to not help Reggie. He tosses a banana peel. In a subversion of a cartoon trope, the banana peel merely causes Reggie to…stop in his tracks. What?
Archie gets an old oil drum and starts drumming (see what they did?) to “soothe the savage beast”.
The female beast starts dancing, and so does Reggie, in a sense, although it seems more like he’s slipping on the banana peels.
The “jealous lover” arrives, growling angrily. Everyone’s worried. Archie keeps drumming.
The beast knocks Reggie out of the way.
It turns out that the beast just wanted to groove with his chick.
While Archie keeps the music going, everyone quickly leaves.
Rather than getting on the boat, Reggie decides to swim back to the mainland, because that’s a perfectly sensible thing to do.
Later, at Pop’s, Archie and Jughead are bummed over their treasure-seeking expedition being a bust.
The girls are pissed at Reggie for ruining everything. The dance is tomorrow night.
Reggie finally apologizes (angrily) and calls himself “a natural-born gorilla talent scout”. This gives Archie an idea.
The next night, at the dance at Riverdale High School (HRS, of course), Veronica is eagerly anticipating the “special entertainment”, which Archie’s being secretive about.
Archie goes on the stage and presents “Reggie Mantle and His Newly-Discovered Mod Monsters”.
Yeah, they somehow went back to the island, convinced the beasts to come and perform at the school dance, and either convinced the school to let them do it or sneaked the beasts in. Sure, why the hell not?
Jughead asks Archie if he and the octopus, who he befriended and brought onto dry land, can go on next. Sure, why the hell not? Reggie can legitimately snidely comment “He’s dying up there.”
That’s the end of the segment, but, while we’re here, I guess I should take a look at the musical segment.
Jughead demonstrates a stupid dance for the “kids”.
Archie promises to show a “groovy dance step” in the “dance of the week” after the commercial break. I know I’m pumped.
After the break, Archie excitedly introduces “the bubblegum”, and Jughead demonstrates, which basically consists of making circular motions with his index fingers, hands, and arms.
This gets Hot Dog so excited that he decides to have some bubblegum!
After a bit of this, The Archies perform their new song, Bang-Shang-A-Lang”.
IT’S ABOUT DOGS WANTING TO FUCK. AREN’T YOU GLAD THAT I REVIEWED THIS?
Before Hot Dog can bang Shang A. Lang, the song ends.
Then there’s a short skit where Hot Dog takes a lesson in fetch to the extreme. Jughead offers to sell Hot Dog to Archie. Ha.
Then Archie introduces the next story segment.
The closing credits sequence is just a shortened repeat of the opening theme with the credits overlayed.
So this is a typical episode of “The Archie Show”. This was actually the most successful format. “Archie’s Funhouse” got more scatterbrained with its variety format. Taking time away from the main characters, because they decided to get jobs showing cartoons at the local TV station (“Archie’s TV Funnies“) or had to learn about history (“The U.S. of Archie“) didn’t help matters.
I guess I should mention these cartoons have a laugh track, which was the norm at the time.
My thoughts on the cast:
Dallas McKennon is annoying as Archie, kind of like Bob Hastings on the radio show.
Howard Morris isn’t much better than Harlan Stone as Jughead.
John Erwin is annoying as Reggie.
Jane Webb is okay. Her Betty voice is good.
Okay, seriously, it’s there, but it’s only the broadest characterization. The characters are basically the characters from the comics but no more than (and probably actually less than) that.
Also, Filmation decided to give Veronica a Southern accent, I guess as a “tribute” to the old radio show (she’s supposed to be a “Southern belle“, I guess), but it really doesn’t suit her (as I said before, she was from New York or Boston in the original comics).
That’s all that I have to say about this episode. Tune in next Wednesday, when we’ll look at a Sabrina episode from Filmation.