The Retro Bin: Saturday Morning Jock Jams
11:30 AM to 1 PM, this is a bittersweet time for Saturday morning viewers. It’s generally the start of the time when the cartoons die down and the kids are forced to relinquish control of the TV back to the adults who’ll begin their own weekend rituals of watching news, infomercials and especially sports programs. Of course, we here at Twinsanity are huge geeks who would much rather watch cartoons than sports, but thankfully, there have been some instances where we didn’t have to choose. A number of professional athletes have found their way into Saturday morning cartoons, and these mergings have generally been…ridiculous. Nonetheless, in this Retro Bin, we’ll be taking a look back at some of Saturday morning’s Jock Jams.
The earliest one that comes to mind is the SatAM cartoon starring The Harlem Globetrotters, which was produced by Hanna-Barbera and CBS Productions and ran on CBS from 1970 to 1972 and was later re-run on NBC under the title Go-Go Globetrotters.
In this animated incarnation, the titular basketball superstars (which included animated versions of George “Meadowlark” Lemon, Freddie “Curly” Neal, Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, J.C. “Gip” Gipson, Bobby Joe Mason, and Paul “Pablo” Robertson) would travel would travel the globe in their funky fresh van having random misadventures along with their bus driver and manager, a little old lady from Pasadena called Granny and (because this was a Saturday morning cartoon made in the early 70s) their mascot; a goofy, sneakers wearing dog named Dribbles (Get it?). Exactly why H-B felt that the jesters of dunk needed to have a comic relief mascot is beyond me. The Globies have always kind of been their own comic relief, so giving them their own Mr. Cool (see Fonz and the Happy Days Gang) seemed kind of unnecessary. The series worked to a formula where the team travels somewhere and typically get involved in a local conflict that leads to one of the Globetrotters proposing a basketball game to settle the issue. To ensure the Globetrotters’ defeat, the villains rig the contest; however, before the second half of the contest, the team always finds a way to even the odds, become all but invincible, and win the game. In 1979, H-B would try this formula again, only with the Globetrotters as super heroes in a series titled The Super Globetrotters, which has already been covered by Damon (Silverstar) in the very first Retro Box. At least the opening theme song was catchy. Check it out:
Trivia Time: Coach Leon Hillard was originally planned to be on the series, but was cut out of the cast prior to the start of production.
Fast Forward to 15 years later to our next series; a Saturday morning cartoon titled Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling, which ran for only a single season (1985) on CBS. This series was animated and produced by DIC Entertainment. It featured animated adventures of popular WWF stars from the time. Yes, I said “WWF”. This was before the World Wrestling Federation lost it’s years long battle with the other WWF (the World Wildlife Foundation) over use of the initials and was forced to change it’s name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002.
Anyway, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling focused on animated versions of the Hulkster and his slam banging buddies having random adventures all while always wearing their spandex outfits even during everyday situations. None of the WWE wrestlers provided the voices of their cartoon counterparts, but some of them would be featured in live action wraparounds which would air between segments, including some who weren’t featured in the cartoons themselves, such as Terrible Terry Funk and manager Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart . However, Rock ‘N’ Wrestling did boast some appearances by some notable voice actors before they were famous. Cartoon Hulk Hogan was voiced by the pre-Everybody Loves Raymond Brad Garret, while cartoon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was voiced by the pre-Tiny Toon Adventures Charles Adler. Interestingly, one thing that the characters were almost never shown doing was actually wrestling. I remember one episode has Hulk and friends in a deep, dark jungle wrestling some crocodiles, but that’s about it. The wrestlers would attend rock concerts, have run ins with bargain based mad scientists, petty criminals, typical Saturday morning stuff. This, I think, is the primary reason why Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling didn’t last beyond one season. In comparison to the “real” WWE shows, which boast such memorable moments as chairman Vince MacMahon wailing on a differently abled teenage fan with the kid’s own prosthetic leg and an ancient lady wrestler (ironically named Mae Young) giving birth to a human hand, the goings on in Rock ‘N’ Wrestling seemed completely tame. It’s ironic that the actual WWE manages to be more of a cartoon than the actual Saturday morning cartoon from which it spawned. Anyway, here’s the show’s intro:
Notice how the animated Hulk Hogan looks to be about 20 years younger than his live action counterpart. Apparently, steroids isn’t something that exists in Cartoonland.
Incidentally, one of the wrestlers featured on the show was “Captain Lou” Albano, and while Mr. Albano didn’t provide the voice of his animated counterpart, he would later go on to voice another popular animated character on another TV show that you might have heard of.
Next we come to a series titled ProStars, which was produced by DiC and ran on NBC for only a single season (1991).
The show centers on Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky fighting crime and helping children, often protecting the environment as well. These three were chosen to represent the pinnacle of all four major American professional sports in the early 1990s. While Jordan and Gretzky are broadly associated with their respective sports, Jackson was included since he could represent both football and baseball and was a high-profile celebrity off the field as well. A reference to his “Bo Knows” Nike ad-campaign was worked into almost every episode (“Bo Knows Repetition!”)
Trivia Time: ProStars was originally slated to air on ESPN, but I guess that there are enough animated characters on that network already.
This last one gets an honorable mention, because it’s not actually a show, but rather its one episode of a show. I’m talking about the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) episode of Kids’ WB Static Shock titled “Hoop Squad”, which originally aired on February 8, 2004. This is considered by many Static Shock fans as the single worst episode of the series. Basically, “Hoop Squad” was Static Shock‘s equivalent to ‘I’ve Got Batman in My Basement”. Below is the episode’s synopsis, courtesy of the DCAU Wiki:
“Hoop Squad” is the seventh episode of the fourth season of Static Shock. It depicts the appearance of a giant robot created by Nanites in Los Angeles. To stop the nanites Static and Gear join up with the Hoop Squad: a team of basketball players, Tracy McGrady, Karl Malone, Yao Ming and Steve Nash outfitted in power suits used to fight crime.
The Hoop Squad’s roster consisted of:
- Tracy McGrady – Spin Drive
- Karl Malone – Pulverizer
- Yao Ming – Center Force
- Steve Nash – Point Man
The Hoop Squad were recruited by the National Biotech Authority, a secret government agency dedicated to preserving world peace and stability, to operate new bio-enhanced suits designed by Dr. Mason Andrews. They were chosen by the NBA to become a superhero team because they were the ones who had the strength and skills needed to operate Dr. Andrews’ Bio-Enhancer suits. I wonder if this National Biotech Authority only recruited basketball stars, or did it have a baseball, football, tennis and golf division as well? Yeah, like you wouldn’t want to see Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus suit up and bop bad guys with atomic powered exploding golf balls.
Trivia Time: Even though all of the Hoop Squad were based on real life athletes, only Karl Malone provided his own voice, and frankly, hearing Karl Malone trying to act was funnier than any of the jokes that were used in the episode.
It remains to be seen if any more sports/cartoon mash-ups are looming over the horizon, but let’s just hope that we’ll never get anything like this ever again: