My son is a budding superhero enthusiast, but he’s only four, so I won’t be taking him to see The Avengers this weekend. I do, however — much to my wife’s chagrin — sometimes treat him to viewings of Disney XD’s Marvel shows, including Ultimate Spider-Man and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Truth be told, The Superhero Squad Show is probably most up his alley, but I digress — the point is, this weekend, the Hulk is doing double duty on the Disney XD lineup, with a guest appearance on Ultimate Spider-Man as well as his regular smashing on Avengers.
The action all goes down this Sunday, when the big green guy shows up on Spider-Man to help the wallcrawler defeat an invisible enemy (lazy animators!) and helps the Avengers during an adventure featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy. According to this here press release, the fun begins at 11 AM, but check your local listings — and watch this interview with Fred Tatasciore, the voice actor who gives Hulk that certain je ne sais quoi:
Well, this is interesting. Having established its own publishing arm and film production shingle, Amazon is making its move into original television programming, with an emphasis on — wait for it — “original children’s programming and primetime comedy series.”
Of course, they aren’t looking for everyone’s ideas. Perhaps envisioning how quickly their servers would explode if every aspiring TV mogul started pitching them ideas, Amazon has made it clear upfront that they’re only optioning one a month — and the terms, at least on the surface, don’t sound all that great; I’m sure there’s more to the deal, but the AV Club only mentions that “Amazon will then pay its creator $55,000 and give them up to 5 percent of the merchandising revenues plus additional royalties.”
Not that $55,000 is anything to sneeze at — and a percentage of merchandising can add up to a whole hell of a lot, just ask George Lucas — but if those terms are ironclad and the project takes off, they can start to look pretty small. (Also, that five percent is from net merchandising.)
All that aside, this is still an intriguing avenue for anyone with a killer idea for a TV show and limited access to, you know, funds and/or distribution. Based on the kids’ projects in development at Amazon’s film studio, the field should be wide open on the TV side. Why, if I had an idea for a series, I’d send it in right now. Here’s what you should be pitching:
We are looking for character-driven original ideas that speak to children between the ages of 2-14. Series can be live action, animated, stop motion or mixed media. We are interested in preschool series for children ages 2-5 like Blue’s Clues, Curious George and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Preschool series must have an educational theme or clear potential for one. We are also interested in ideas for children and tweens between the ages of 6-14 such as Phineas and Ferb or iCarly.
We spend a fair amount of time around here talking about the state of kids’ culture (it’s even in our logo!), which means we also spend a fair amount of time grousing about the ways it could be better. But because we are sensible people, and because we lived through a time when things were, generally speaking, kind of worse, we feel duty-bound to occasionally sift through the wreckage of our misspent youth and point out just how far we’ve come. In that spirit, we present Saturday Morning Graveyard, which takes a quick, disbelieving look back at some of the poorly animated hooey we were given as impressionable kids.
These days, pulling voice duty is regarded as a plum acting gig — a sure sign you’ve arrived, and a chance to draw a paycheck for hanging out in a recording booth in your sweats. But 30 years ago, we’d just crawled out of the dark ages when studios habitually neglected to credit voice actors, and made fewer bones about treating kids like open-mouthed content receptacles who’d drink up any old crap like turkeys drowning in the rain.
Case in point: The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, a gross amalgamation of garbage animation and creatively bankrupt programming that took the black magic of TV spinoffs and sent it plummeting to absurd new depths. Just explaining this stupid series is going to hurt, so sit down and make yourself comfortable.
First, the Mork & Mindy portion of the program, which took the once-popular Robin Williams/Pam Dawber sitcom — then limping through its final season — and sent it through a weird time warp that ended with the same basic premise (alien comes to Earth, meets Earth people, learns Earth customs) but dropped the characters into high school and gave Mork a pink, six-legged pet named Doing (pronounced “Doyng,” of course).
If you remember the live-action Mork & Mindy, you know it wasn’t exactly high comedy. Now imagine a scenario in which Williams and Dawber say “doyng” a lot and pretend to be teenagers, and…well, I think it says something about us as a species that this show lasted 26 episodes.
And here’s where it gets weird, because the Laverne & Shirley part of the show was actually a spinoff of the pre-existing Laverne & Shirley in the Army cartoon, which was itself a spinoff of Laverne & Shirley, which (like Mork & Mindy) was a spinoff of Happy Days, which was a spinoff of Love, American Style. Do you remember what I was saying about absurd depths? Welcome to Hell, friend.
Anyway, like I said, here’s where it gets weird: Laverne & Shirley took Laverne & Shirley in the Army off in a new direction, adding the Fonz (voiced by Henry Winkler, ayyyy-ing his way over from the animated The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang) and his dog Mr. Cool to a cast that already included a talking pig named Sgt. Squealy (who was, of course, Laverne & Shirley’s immediate superior). But even though this stupid animation hour ran for 26 episodes, Laverne & Shirley only taped eight, because Cindy “Shirley” Williams up and quit her job on the live-action series. Which means, I guess, that anyone dumb enough to watch every week of The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour saw every episode of Laverne & Shirley three times.
And with that, I feel like I need to have a good cry and go write a letter to the Wiggles apologizing for every mean thing I’ve ever said about them to my kids. In the meantime, here’s one minute of insulting nonsense. You’re welcome: