Category Archives: Saturday Morning Graveyard

Saturday Morning Graveyard: “The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour”

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.

Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour (1982-83)

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:

Saturday Morning Graveyard: “Rickety Rocket”

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.

Rickety Rocket (1979-80)

Presented as part of the generally dreadful Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Rickety Rocket was a sort of animated perfect storm. It’s lamentably true that, Sesame Street excepted, children’s television did a lamentably poor job of depicting cultural diversity during the ’70s and ’80s — but that’s partly because it did a bad job of depicting rational human behavior in general, which is why, when Ruby-Spears Productions decided to add a little color to its lineup, they came up with an appalling blend of Scooby-Doo, Sanford and Son, and The Jetsons. Observe:

On the one hand, you can applaud the show for sending the message that in the future, inner-city kids will have learned how to cobble together junk left behind by fleeing whites from their decaying neighborhoods and turn it into a sentient rocket. On the other hand, said rocket is a pile of junk with big lips, and the kids are minstrel caricatures. So, you know, kind of a wash.

Troubling subtext aside, Rickety Rocket was basically your standard “junior detective” cartoon of the ’70s, which is to say it involved the protagonists (who called themselves — wait for it — the Far-Out Detective Agency) putting their wits together to defeat bad guys who were just a little more dim-witted than the heroes. Because it took place in the future, Rocket included lots of exotic elements, such as aliens and monsters like Count Draculon — basically it was Scooby-Doo without the masks coming off at the end. And big lips.

Rickety Rocket is hard to watch for a number of reasons, but I think it’s important to point out that I don’t think there was anything intentionally racist about the show; for one thing, I don’t know the story behind its development well enough to make that kind of accusation, and more importantly, as I said before, the cartoons of the era generally subsisted on broad stereotypes and idiotic behavior no matter who they were depicting. Still, it’s a perfect example of the kind of lazy thinking and cruddy animation that typified the Saturday mornings of our youth. Makes Dora the Explorer look pretty outstanding, doesn’t it?