Writers: Larz Bourne, Tom Dagenais, Bill Lutz
Directors: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Original Air Date: Saturday, September 12, 1970
Length: 19:29 (excluding themes)
The character of Josie debuted in She’s Josie, No. 1, cover-dated February of 1963 (but actually on sale as of December 10, 1962), created and drawn by Dan DeCarlo and written by Frank Doyle. She was named after DeCarlo’s wife, who recalled in one of his obituaries: “We went on a Caribbean cruise, and I had a [cat] costume for the cruise, and that’s the way it started.” Dan DeCarlo originally tried to sell it to various publishers as a comic strip called “Here’s Josie” but was rejected. He recalled in 2001: “Then is when I decided to take it to Archie to see if they could do it as a comic book. I showed it to Richard Goldwater, and he showed it to his father, and a day or two later I got the OK to do it as a comic book.”
Some sources claim the story, “Tongue Twister”, in Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals, No. 23 (cover-dated Winter 1962-1963) was the first Josie story, but it went on sale one week after She’s Josie, No. 1.
The series featured everygirl Josie; her bubbly, ditzy friend, Melody; and bookworm Pepper. Josie had a beatnik boyfriend named Albert. Pepper had a strong, dumb boyfriend named Sock (Socrates). There was also rich guy, Alexander “Alex” Cabot III, who lusted after both Josie and Melody. Alex has an obnoxious twin sister, Alexandra Cabot. The characters would occasionally interact with Archie and the Riverdale gang. The “She’s” in the title was dropped with issue # 17 (cover-dated December of 1965).
While Filmation’s Archie/Sabrina juggernaut was going strong on CBS and NBC, rival animation studio Hanna-Barbera (responsible for “The Flintstones”, “The Jetsons”, and Scooby-Doo) contacted Archie Comics about possibly adapting one of their other properties into a similar Saturday-morning musical cartoon series. Archie Comics let them use Josie and made some changes in the latter half of 1969 in order to help set up the series. Josie met a hunky folk singer named Alan M. Mayberry, who eventually became Josie’s sometimes-boyfriend. Alexandra also lusted after Alan. Alexandra discovered her cat, Sebastian, was actually a reincarnation of an ancestor of the Cabot family, who was executed for consorting with witches. Whenever Alexandra held Sebastian in her arms, she could cast powerful magic spells. This aspect was never used in the cartoon series and disappeared from the comic as well, though it has reappeared rarely. The series was retitled “Josie and the Pussycats” with issue #45 (cover-dated December of 1969), written by Dick Malmgren. Pepper, Albert, and Sock were dropped. Josie and Melody formed a band. Alex became their manager (of his own choosing!) and found a bassist for them, a new girl in school named Valerie. Alan became their roadie. Alexandra desired to become the new leader of the band.
The stage was set. The characters were in place. So what did Hanna-Barbera do? Rip off Scooby-Doo. Seriously.
Here is the main voice cast:
Janet Waldo (possibly as Judy Waite) – Josie (speaking)
Catherine Dougher – Josie (singing)
Jackie Joseph – Melody (speaking)
Cheryl Stoppelmoor (as Cherie Moor) – Melody (singing)
Barbara Pariot – Valerie (speaking)
Patrice Holloway – Valerie (singing)
Jerry Dexter – Alan
Casey Kasem – Alex
Sherry Alberoni – Alexandra
Don Messick (uncredited) – Sebastian
In preparation for the upcoming cartoon series, Hanna-Barbera began working on putting together a real-life Josie and the Pussycats girl group, who would provide the singing voices of the girls in the cartoons and also record an album of songs to be used both as radio singles and in the TV series.
The Josie and the Pussycats recordings were produced by La La Productions, which included producer/songwriter Danny Janssen (who had written for Bobby Sherman and The Partridge Family), his business partner Bobby Young, and songwriters Austin Roberts, Sue Steward (now known as Sue Sheridan), and Bobby Hart (formerly one of the producers/songwriters for The Monkees). They held a talent search to find three girls that would match the three girls in the comic book in both looks and singing ability; early plans, which did not come to fruition, called for a live-action Pussycats segment at the end of each episode. After interviewing over 500 finalists, they settled upon casting Kathleen Dougherty (Cathy Dougher) as Josie, Cherie Moor (later known as Cheryl Ladd (of “Charlie’s Angels” fame)) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie.
Janssen presented the newly-formed band to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to finalize the production deal but was in for a major surprise. Hanna-Barbera wanted Janssen to recast Patrice Holloway, because they had decided to portray “Josie and the Pussycats” as an all-white trio and had altered Valerie, who had been conceived as African-American and was already appearing as such in Archie’s revamped “Josie and the Pussycats” comic book, to make her white. Janssen refused to recast Holloway, whose voice he felt he needed for the soul-inspired bubblegum pop songs that he had written, and threatened to walk away from the project. After a three-week-long stand-off between Janssen and Hanna-Barbera, Hanna-Barbera finally relented and allowed Janssen to keep Holloway and changed Valerie back to being African-American. Word quickly spread around Los Angeles about the stand that Janssen had taken. To show their gratitude, a number of the most notable soul session players in the city offered their services to La La Productions and the Josie album at a fraction of their regular fees. Among them were Elvis Presley’s drummer Ronnie Tutt, Elvis’ bassist Jerry Scheff, keyboardist Clarence MacDonald, flutist Wilton Felder, and guitarist Mike Stewart. Ironically, Holloway ended up singing lead on most of the songs, including the theme song. The Valerie character was the first African-American female character on a regular Saturday morning cartoon series. The Hardy Boys drummer Pete Jones had been the first African-American male to appear on Saturday mornings a year earlier.
Okay, let’s look at the first episode:
In the cold open, a freighter is moving through water in heavy fog.
Something is following it.
It’s a weird submarine.
A scary-looking dude is playing scary music on a giant organ.
Two henchmen are piloting the sub (I guess).
One of them, Mr. French, reports to “Captain Nemo” that the freighter is “dead ahead”. It seems Nemo is in the habit of sinking ships. He targets this one – by striking a key on his organ. Okay.
Guess who’s on the freighter.
Congrats. Have a cookie.
Anyway, as you can see, I wasn’t kidding when I said Hanna-Barbera ripped off Scooby-Doo. Look at this shit. Alan looks like Fred. Alex looks like Shaggy (he even wears a green shirt) and is even voiced by Shaggy’s voice actor, Casey Kasem. I wonder if Kasem demanded Alex be portrayed as a vegetarian. Sebastian is voiced by Don Messick, the voice of Scooby-Doo.
Alex unnaturally exposits they’re on their way to their big gig at Pago Pago Island. It’s almost as if he’s on a TV series or something.
Alexandra makes clear her wish to drown her brother. As it turns out, Alex set up the transportation (which makes sense, since he’s the manager).
Melody (heh, I’m dealing with another blonde girl named Melody) has a dumb moment but then laughs, so maybe she was intentionally trying to sound dumb and then gave it away. Who knows?
The ship is in poor condition. Alexandra is miserable, but Josie is looking forward to the island. Alexandra predicts the trip will be “strictly Dullsville”.
The theme song starts, and it’s really cute and fun. Infectious, actually. It was written by Hanna-Barbera musical director Hoyt Curtin (and based on a recurring score cue from “The Jetsons”), William Hanna, and Joseph Barbera. Most of the shots seem to be from various episodes (I recognize some from this one).
Then Sebastian blows up the band. Seriously. Well, that was dark.
After the theme, everyone except Alexandra is enjoying themselves.
Josie’s hoping to fuck Alan.
Unfortunately, Alex, the son of a millionaire (at least), didn’t have enough money for the fare, so he secretly had all of them made indentured servants.
Alexandra lets her brother know exactly how she feels.
Down below, Nemo gives the order to attack by pressing a key on his organ. Why’s he taking so long? And what’s this bullshit about giving an order? Can’t he attack the freighter himself?
We break away from that (again), because it’s time for kitchen duty! Valerie gives Alexandra a choice of washing or drying, but Alexandra wants to “supervise”.
Nemo’s sub attacks the freighter…
…and ass-rapes Alexandra.
The girls wonder what the fuck’s going on.
Melody is upset that she’ll have to dry the dishes all over again. Goddess bless her.
The captain orders all hands to abandon ship.
Alex panics. Alan goes to save the instruments. Really? That’s your priority? You can always buy new instruments. I mean it might take a while (if only they knew someone with money), but these are nothing that can’t be replaced.
Alex uses his broom to pole-vault into a lifeboat and pulls some Titanic-level shit.
Fortunately, the girls and Sebastian happen to get washed out of the freighter at this very moment and land in the boat…
…and on top of Alex. Hehehe.
Melody thinks they landed on a “lumpy old pillow”. She…really is the stupidest person on the planet, isn’t she?
Alan has successfully rescued the instruments (whew!) and jumps into the boat.
Unfortunately, this results in the destruction of Josie’s guitar. Josie must realize they know someone with money and doesn’t care about the guitar. She just wants Alan’s trombone up her ass.
Alexandra shoves the “crazy redhead” (says the woman with the skunk hair) aside, so Alan can ream her asshole.
Josie hits the motor, which somehow gets it started, and the boat just takes off at high speed, blowing them past the other survivors.
Nemo’s happy that he’s sunk the freighter and plays his organ in celebration.
A while later, the gang’s gotten the boat stopped. Alex blames his sister. Alexandra blames Josie for being clumsy and falling on the “motor switch”. Anyone know anything about motorboats and whether any operate by switches?
Valerie wonders if they’ll ever see land again.
Not to worry, though: Melody’s on the lookout!
I know I feel better.
They somehow land on Nero’s sub.
The guards shoot seaweed (seriously) at them, tying them up, so they can’t move (seriously).
They’re brought aboard the sub at seaweed gunpoint and taken to meet Nero. Alexandra insults his playing. He tells her to shut the fuck up and introduces himself. Apparently, he’s the great-grandson of the original Captain Nemo and continuing his hobby of sinking ships. Both he and Valerie treat Captain Nemo as a historical person and not a goddamn fictional character.
Nemo’s grand plan is to “avenge the name of Nemo by sinking every ship in the world” and become “master of the seven seas”. So he’s a classic cartoon villain that has a grandiose plan but doesn’t see the consequences beyond it (massive fucking retribution).
After the commercial break, Alan asks what Nemo’s gonna do with them. Nemo says, unfortunately, they’re of no use. Alex insists they are. Nemo asks what they can do. Josie has Melody and Valerie go with her and…
Okay, so check this shit out. In the span of a second, the girls retrieved their instruments from wherever the fuck they were, repaired Josie’s guitar, changed outfits, and carried the instruments back with them. Nemo guesses they’re “quick change artists”. Kinda funny.
So the girls jam. Well, Josie and Melody do. Valerie just shakes her stupid tambourines.
Nemo doesn’t “dig the groovy beat”, so Alexandra decides to lead the group by conducting them and telling them to play faster. This
allows the animators to work less by recycling shots pisses Nemo off.
He drops the band through a trap door (they look so happy about it!). Alexandra chews Nemo out for ruining her groove. Alan chews Alexandra out for ruining the band’s act. Alex suggests they get the fuck out of here. They run away. Nemo calls for the alarm to be sounded (instead of just doing it himself). Alexandra tells the guys to follow her; she’ll lead them to safety.
Alan is happy to see Josie, Melody, and Valerie. However, Alex chews his sister out for leading them into the brig, which the Pussycats are in, despite the brig being on the same level as the bridge, which the Pussycats had fallen down from.
Nemo comes by to laugh evilly (seriously) and orders his henchmen to take them to the “diving well”.
Alan asks Nemo why he’s locked them in these glass tubes after he’s done it. Nemo plans to send them to the bottom of the ocean. It’s his way of getting rid of unwanted pests. Melody happily “corrects” him that they’re Pussycats.
Alexandra asks the “creep” what he’s gonna do with Sebastian.
Sebastian, worried, sucks up to Nemo, who spares him. Alexandra calls Sebastian a traitor, but he laughs it off.
Nemo laughs evilly and starts up the machine, which drops his captives to “the bottom of the ocean” in three seconds.
Melody laments they forgot their instruments, because she’s so adorably stupid.
Nemo goes back to playing his organ. He exposits his plan to himself: going back to his secret fortress on Volcano Island. Having overheard this dastardly plan, Sebastian steals a fish bowl (he spares the fish instead of eating it) and Nemo’s keys and dives to the rescue. Alexandra praises Sebastian.
Alex laments they’re hopelessly lost at sea.
Melody spots an island “that’s hopelessly lost at sea, too”. They swim for it.
Once they get there, Alan suggests climbing the quite active volcano to find out what’s on top. I can’t even…
Alexandra inadvertently finds a secret elevator and then sputters funny nonsense in a daze.
They get in, and Valerie tries to figure out the controls. Alexandra just starts pushing buttons, and the look on Valerie’s face is priceless.
They land on the bottom floor.
Then they somehow spy on the operations, even though Josie talks loudly.
Melody refers to the “secret sub base” as a “yacht club”.
Valerie spots a couple of henchmen stashing the band’s instruments “in cold storage” (how does she know this?). This worries Josie, because, “with no instruments, there’s no Josie and the Pussycats”. If only they knew someone with lots of money…
Alan wants them to get the instruments back and “put Nemo out of business to boot”. So the first priority is the instruments, and saving untold lives and billions of dollars’ worth of ships from a madman are second. Got it.
“Alexander the Great” loudly proclaims he has a plan. WHY HAVEN’T THEY BEEN SPOTTED YET?!
Alex’s plan: Alan, Josie, Melody, and Alexandra sneak into the storage room and grab the instruments. Valerie “very cleverly” gets aboard the sub and “discombooberates” the engine. Alex is gonna stay here and hide.
Alexandra admits her “bragging brother” was right: this is a cinch. Alan guesses they don’t believe in guards.
Son of a fuck…
The gang runs away from the
sentinel laser sentry.
After the commercial break, Nemo is monitoring the situation.
The gang runs into the conveniently labelled and unoccupied emergency hospital.
The advanced robot is incapable of recognizing the people that it was just chasing two seconds earlier, because they’re wearing different clothes, and two of them are wearing fake mustaches. Melody, don’t ever change.
Melody laughs at her own stupidity again, which leads me to believe she’s just faking, and this is just her odd brand of humor.
The “doctor” “examines” the sentry.
They then “operate” on it.
Yeah, Melody’s just dicking with them.
Meanwhile, Alexandra is jelly of Josie being Alan’s “nurse” while she’s stuck on guard duty. Sebastian finds it amusing.
On the sub, an impatient Alex stands around while Valerie sabotages the engine.
Nemo’s viewscreen is fucked up, which he somehow takes as proof that something’s wrong with the laser sentry, so he goes to investigate.
The “medical team” has completed the “operation”.
Two of the sentry’s springs burst forth and hit Alexandra in the head, so she decides to become Alan’s “new nurse”. She tells Sebastian to take the air hose from a helium tank and blow up Josie like a balloon. Alexandra then exposits her motive to
the audience herself.
This does not science.
Josie immediately accuses Alexandra.
Alexandra makes a quartered-assed attempt at feigning innocence.
Just then, Nemo arrives.
Josie pops and crashes into the others.
Nemo orders his guards to capture the “meddlers”. They might also be “kids” from his perspective, but he doesn’t call them that, so the series can continue its pretense of being original.
Our heroes ain’t having it.
They make a run for it.
On the sub, Valerie gives Alex instructions, not accounting for the fact that there are two blue wires.
Yep, that’s about what I expected.
The engine starts chasing Valerie, and the featured song of the episode starts up. Yeah, a song plays during a chase sequence, I guess so they didn’t have to write a concert scene into the episode.
Anyway, the song is called “Road Runner”, and it’s pretty catchy, even though it has nothing to do with this scene nor the episode (it’s about a cheating womanizer). It takes up a bit of screen time, so just enjoy these screencaps of the chase sequence:
That’s just cheap and sloppy.
So Alexandra’s netted Captain Nemo and his henchmen…
…and netted herself as well.
Sebastian finds it amusing.
The Coast Guard arrives (is Volcano Island a U.S. territory?), extends their thanks, and arrests Nemo and his henchmen.
Melody laughs at everything. She’s gotta be high.
A change of shirt later, Alex announces the Coast Guard is giving them a ride to Pago Pago.
Alexandra’s pissed that they laughed at her, so she refuses to go on the same ship as them.
The closing credits sequence is just a shortened repeat of the opening theme (no action scenes) with the credits overlayed.
This series is less “Josie and the Pussycats” and more “Josie and Friends Play Scooby-Doo”. Nevertheless, it was a mild success (I guess). It ran for sixteen episodes from September 12, 1970, to January 2, 1971. While it wasn’t nearly as successful as the Archie cartoons, it’s the better overall series by far. I actually enjoy watching it (despite the cheapness), and I like listening to the songs (then again, I prefer female singers, anyway). It’s such a shame that the album sold far below expectations, and plans for a national tour were shelved.
So what did Hanna-Barbera do? Revamp the series by sending the characters into space. Of course.
“Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space” premiered on September 9, 1972, and ran for sixteen episodes, ending on December 30, 1972. This series, about the characters accidentally getting launched into space on board a rocket, has them criss-crossing the galaxy (as rockets were known to do), “trying to get back to here”. It was definitely an…odd direction to take the series (not to mention completely pointless). If you’re wondering if they ever got back to Earth, the answer is yes. The characters crossed over with Scooby-Doo (appropriately enough) in the “movie”, “The Haunted Showboat“, which originally aired on Saturday, September 22, 1973. Your minds may now be set at ease.
Early production art for Hanna-Barbera’s 1977 “all-star” Battle of the Network Stars spoof, “Laff-A-Lympics”, featured Alexandra, Sebastian, Alexander, and Melody among other Hanna-Barbera characters as members of the “Scooby Doobies” team, but legal problems prevented their inclusion in the final program.
As with the Filmation cartoons, these cartoons have a laugh track, but it was removed for the DVD release.
The cast is pretty good in their roles. As far as characterization, Melody steals the fucking show. She’s just so adorable. Alexandra is kind of the star (and, in this case, the unintentional hero). Alexander got changed the most, transformed from the scheming Reggie-like character in the comics to a Shaggy clone (though the dickishness was retained). His wealth was forgotten, because it was inconvenient to the plot. His interest in fucking Josie and Melody was dropped as well. Josie is, unfortunately, kind of bland and doesn’t get much to do, even though she’s the nominal star. You’ll have to look to the comics if you want to get to the core of Josie’s being. Um, look really hard.
The “Josie and the Pussycats” comic book lasted until issue #106 (cover-dated October of 1982), and the characters have starred in occasional new stories since then. The comics, unlike the show, generally avoided the over-the-top mystery plotlines. The series is soon to be relaunched as part of “New Riverdale” continuity (see the Introduction page for explanation).
“Josie and the Pussycats” is an important – and enjoyable! – cartoon series, the effects of which can be felt to this day. Check it out.
Tune in next Wednesday!