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THE TELEPHEMERA YEARS: 1970, part 4

Written By:

Alan Boon
Groovie Goolies, 1970

Ah, telephemera… those shows whose stay with us was tantalisingly brief, snatched away before their time, and sometimes with good cause. They hit the schedules alongside established shows, hoping for a long run, but it’s not always to be, and for every Street Hawk there’s two Manimals. But here at STARBURST we celebrate their existence and mourn their departure, drilling down into the new season’s entertainment with equal opportunities square eyes… these are The Telephemera Years!

1970-71

The arrival of a new decade brought with it some significant changes in the network television schedules. The Fall 1970 season was the final time viewers could sit down to enjoy The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan’s Heroes, and Green Acres, all staples of CBS’s 1960s line-up, with The Newlywed Game and High Chapparal also saying their goodbyes as the year went on. Still, Here’s Lucy ensured that Lucille Ball was still a constant in American homes, while Ironside, Gunsmoke, and Marcus Welby MD all had strong showings in the year-end ratings.

New shows arriving on the scene that would leave a lasting impact included The Odd Couple, The Partridge Family, and Monday Night Football on ABC, The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS, and the debut of a new Black comedy star on NBC in The Flip Wilson Show. There were slim pickings for fans of genre television but at least Alias Smith and Jones and The Young Rebels upped the action quota across the week. Those were the shows that occupied adults’ time in 1970, but what of their bored offspring? This is the story of four wild Saturday morning shows…

Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies (CBS): In October 1962, writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo created a new character to debut in Archie’s Mad-House, one of a number of titles published by Archie Comics and featuring the adventures of the eponymous Riverdale teenager. Intended as a one-off, fan reaction to Sabrina Spellman was so strong that the pair brought the teenage witch back for occasional appearances in Mad-House as the 1960s wore on.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 1970

In 1969, seeking to pad out the usual Archie adventures with new segments, Filmation decided to introduce an animated Sabrina the Teenage Witch portion to The Archie Comedy Hour, which aired on CBS on Saturday mornings. Again, reaction to the character was so strong that she was given her own show for the Fall 1970 season. Interestingly, before they introduced her to The Archie Comedy Hour, Filmation had been looking at licensing Bewitched as a Saturday morning animated show, but CBS producer Freddie Silverman tipped them off to the existence of Sabrina.

As part of The Archie Comedy Hour, Sabrina had appeared alongside another supernatural feature, Groovie Goolies. Inspired by the classic Universal monsters, the Groovie Goolies were an original Filmation creation, although they interacted with the Archie characters and moved over with Sabrina into Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, which debuted on September 12th 1970.

The Goolies – renamed the Ghoulies in the UK to avoid testicle-based confusion – consisted of Drac, Frankie, and Wolfie, a trio of cool monsters living at Horrible Hall and surrounded by other creatures they often referred to as “cousins.” The Goolies were also a band and each episode featured them performing a musical number, alongside fast-paced physical humour and Frankie’s ever-present catchphrase, “I needed that!”

The Goolies also made a handful of appearances in Archie Comics’ titles in October and November 1970 but were otherwise not part of the wider Archie universe, also enjoying crossovers with Looney Tunes characters and appearing as part of Hanna-Barbera’s Banana Splits show when it was shown in the UK.

Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies was the highest rating show of the season, enjoying a share of over half the kids watching on Saturday mornings, and the decision was made to split them into their own shows for the 1971 season. No new episodes were produced but new wraparounds were introduced, including the earworm “Goolies Get-Together” opening sequence.

Groovie Goolies, 1970

After two seasons on their own, The Groovie Goolies was folded back into Sabrina the Teenage Witch for a final Fall 1973 outing but, again, this was reuse of older material giving fresh airings for a new audience of pre-teens. Sabrina, of course, went on to have a considerable afterlife in both live-action and animated form, but the Goolies were less fortunate. Other than a handful of appearances in 1977’s The New Archie and Sabrina Hour, they’re still waiting to be (literally) reanimated.

Filmation did consider a movie version in 1978, and in 1984 they worked on two different Goolies’ concepts; Fright Camp would have featured the children of the original Goolies, while The Goolies would have starred the Drac, Frankie, and Wolfie as toddlers. Neither got past the planning stage.

Lancelot Link Secret Chimp (ABC): It’s tempting to think of the Saturday morning line-ups as being wall-to-wall cartoons, but the occasional live-action show breaks the pattern, such as ABC’s Fall 1970 hopeful Lancelot Link Secret Chimp. Created by Stan Burns and Mike Marmer, a prolific writing team that had worked on Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island, and The Carol Burnett Show, the eponymous primate was a secret agent,

Link (voiced by Dayton Allen doing his best Humphrey Bogart impression) worked for APE – the brilliantly named Agency to Prevent Evil – in their battle against CHUMP – the less said the better Criminal Headquarters for Underworld Master Plan. Aided by Mata Hairi and Commander Darwin, he fought the evil forces of Baron von Butcher, voiced by Bernie Kopell and modelled on Siegfried, Copell’s character in Get Smart.

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, 1970

The elephant in the room is that all these characters were, in fact, chimpanzees, trained to react in certain ways and given human clothing and props to maintain the illusion. The show apparently enjoyed a seven-figure budget, but this still didn’t account for the unpredictability of its animal stars, leading to some wild diversions from the script to ensure footage was usable. This extended to songs performed by the house-band, the Evolution Revolution, which featured Link on guitar.

Seventeen episodes were produced, each with two stories per show, along with a musical number and a sketch featuring The Chimpies. The show was astonishingly successful, enjoying the full range of spin-off merchandise (including eight issues of a comic book from Gold Key), but there seems to have been no consideration of a second series, the network content to re-run the existing episodes over and over.

Harlem Globetrotters (CBS): The Harlem Globetrotters had their roots on the south side of Chicago, where they formed as The Savoy Big Five in 1926, playing exhibition basketball games before dance events at the city’s Savoy Ballroom. In 1928, several of the team walked out after a dispute and formed the Globe Trotters, touring southern Illinois and Iowa with the same act they’d perfected in Chicago. Signing on with touring baseball promoter Ape Saperstein, the team was renamed the New York Harlem Globe Trotters to cash in on Harlem’s position as the centre of black culture in the 1920s.

As well as their touring show, the Globetrotters (the two words soon became one) also competed in several legitimate contests, winning the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1940 and beating the Minneapolis Lakers – reigning National Basketball League champions – eight years later in a famous game. Their bread and butter, though, was the exhibition games, and by 1952 their eternal opponents the Washington Generals were in place.

Harlem Globetrotters, 1970

In 1968, the Globetrotters were acquired by George Gillett Jr, who began aggressively marketing them beyond anything they’d previously experienced. This was the famous team that featured Fred “Curly” Neal, Meadowlark Lemon, and others, and it seemed a natural fit when that included a Hanna-Barbera cartoon for Saturday mornings from September 1970. As with other H-B productions, the show worked to a formula, with the Globetrotters arriving in town and becoming involved in some local dispute that can only be fixed by a basketball game.

Sixteen episodes of Harem Globetrotters were produced for the 1970 season, with another six added in September 1971, and it was heralded as the first cartoon to have a predominantly black cast, just a year after The Hardy Boys became the first cartoon to have a regular black cast member. The end of their series didn’t mean the end for the animated Globetrotters, however, and they appeared in several Scooby-Doo movies in 1972 and 1973, returning in 1979 as The Super Globetrotters when Hanna-Barbera gave them superpowers.

The Harlem Globetrotters are still a going concern, entertaining audiences all over the world with their trademark mix of basketball and comedy. Occasionally, the Washington Generals will get a win – the official website records just three such victories but there are believed to have been half a dozen – but usually it’s a tale of good defeating evil, especially as a Generals victory in 1971 is reported to have caused children to cry.

Josie and the Pussycats (CBS): It wasn’t just Sabrina Spellman breaking out of Archie Comics and onto the small screen as the sixties turned to the seventies, there was also a three-piece girl band that made the same journey, albeit a year after the teenage witch and her groovy gooly pals. Josie and the Pussycats were the creation of Dan DeCarlo, at the time a freelance cartoonist working predominantly for Atlas Comics, the pre-Marvel Marvel.

DeCarlo created the character of redhead Josie Jones in the late 1950s, remembering a cat costume his wife – also named Josie – had worn on a Caribbean cruise. DeCarlo originally pitched a solo feature called Here’s Josie, but Archie insisted on introducing her into the Archie universe (in Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals #23, Winter 1962-63) before spinning her off into She’s Josie in February 1963. It was there that Josie found her future Pussycats, blonde Melody and brunette Pepper.

Josie and the Pussycats, 1970

She’s Josie turned into just Josie with issue seventeen, but the biggest change came in December 1969, when the title was renamed Josie and the Pussycats for its forty-fifth issue, bringing with it the new status quo. By this time, the TV show was in development and there’s some doubt as to which influenced which, but whatever way round it was, Josie and Melody had now decided to start a band. Pepper opted out and was replaced by Valerie, a new girl at their school who happened to be black (and thus became the first black female character on a Saturday morning cartoon).

Animated by Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon began its run in September 1970, with supporting characters including useless manager Alexander, his scheming sister Alexandra (and her evil cat, Sebastian), and hunky roadie Alan. Each episode took the form of the band arriving to play a show, only to end up solving a mystery, and sixteen episodes were produced for CBS’s Saturday morning line-up, repeated through the year (and again for the Fall 1971 season).

In 1972, the show was retooled as Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, but the original concept continued in comic books until 1982, returning occasionally thereafter. In 2001, MGM produced a live-action reboot for the big screen, starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson, but a proposed follow-up TV show never appeared. Josie had to wait until 2017 for a TV return in the bizarre Riverdale, by which point she was now black and called Josie McCoy, although she still had her Pussycats along for the ride.

Next time on The Telephemera Years: What aboot Canada, eh? We take a dive into the Great White North’s contributions to the field of telephemera…

Check out our other Telephemera articles:

The Telephemera Years: pre-1965 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1966 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1967 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1968 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1969 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1970 (part 1, 2, 3)

The Telephemera Years: 1971 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1973 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1974 (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

The Telephemera Years: 1975 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1977 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1978 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1980 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1982 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1983 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1984 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1986 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1987 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1989 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1990 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1992 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1995 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1997 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1998 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2000 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2002 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2003 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2005 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2006 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2008 (part 1, 23, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Irwin Allen

Titans of Telephemera: Stephen J Cannell (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: DIC (part 1, 2)

Titans of Telephemera: Hanna-Barbera (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Titans of Telephemera: Kenneth Johnson

Titans of Telephemera: Sid & Marty Krofft

Titans of Telephemera: Glen A Larson (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Quinn Martin (part 1, 2)

Titans of Telephemera: Ruby-Spears

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