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Complete Underdog TV series arrives on DVD
“There’s no need to fear…Underdog is here”.
The superhero pooch has returned to home video in Shout Factory’s new nine DVD box set, “Underdog Complete Collector’s Edition”. This box set is the definitive release of the cartoon series, and is a must have for Underdog fans.
For the past decade, several Underdog DVD sets have been released. Sony Wonder produced the first Underdog DVD in 2000, followed by two more titles in 2001 and 2002. Disappointingly, these three discs featured versions of the original four part Underdog cliffhanger episodes edited into single cartoons. Plus, the bonus toons of fellow Total TeleVision productions characters King and Odie,TennesseeTuxedo, and more were missing their original intros and titles. In 2007, Classic Media released a three disc Ultimate Underdog collection, to coincide with Disney’s live action movie based on the animated series. It was better than the initial DVD’s with the cliffhanger episodes restored, but unfortunately, just repeated the bonus features from the earlier DVD’s.
The new “Underdog Complete Collector’s Edition” lives up to its title. Shout Factory has compiled all 124 episodes of the classic cartoon series, in their original network broadcast order. The Underdog series originally ran from 1964 to 1967 first on NBC then CBS, with network reruns continuing until 1973. These nine DVD’s recreate these broadcasts. The Underdog cliffhanger episodes are paired with toons from fellow Total TeleVision productions characters Go Go Gophers and Commander McBragg for the first two seasons, and Klondike Kat, Tooter Turtle, and The Hunter during the last season.
The cartoons contain nice colors and brightness, and a crisp picture. They look visually better than ever. Yes, it’s limited animation, but that’s to be expected from U.S.Saturday morning cartoon shows of the 1960’s. The Underdog show was animated in Mexico by Gamma Productions, the team who performed the same duties for the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. So, the general look of the episodes is very similar to the Jay Ward program.
The Underdog Show opening
With so many episodes included in this set, you get to rediscover villains other than Underdog’s usual foes, Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff. In Season three, Underdog tackles the Electric Eel, who wants to use his powers to take over the U.S. Government; Batty Man, a Dracula look- alike who raids Fort Knox and turns the stolen gold into black bowling balls; and outer spacemen Zorb and Crum, who want to rule the earth.
Underdog faces off with villains old and new
As for the companion cartoons, yes the Go Go Gophers (Chief Ruffled Feather and Running Board) might be considered politically incorrect today. Yet, these two cartoon Native American gophers always get the best of Colonel Kit Coyote and Sergeant Okey Homa in each episode. It’s interesting to see how the colonel is made to look like Teddy Roosevelt and the sergeant sounds like John Wayne. Klondike Kat is the feline equivalent of Dudley Do-Right, a clumsy Canadian Mountie always out to arrest the French mouse, Savoir-Faire. And what would Tooter Turtle do if he didn’t have Mr. Wizard the lizard to rescue him from each adventure (“Help Mr. Wizard!”)?
One of the set’s bonus features is a 29 minute documentary on the making of the Underdog series. The show’s co-creator, Buck Biggers, narrator George S. Irving, animation historian Mark Arnold, Gamma Productions animator Roman Arambula, and “Little House on the Prairie’s” Alison Arngrim, daughter of Norma McMillan (the voice of Underdog’s romantic interest Sweet Polly Purebred), provide some interesting anecdotes. Biggers wrote the show’s theme song (“Speed of lightning/roar of thunder…”) in just one hour. Sweet Polly Purebred’s look was modeled after Marilyn Monroe. Simon Bar Sinister’s character was based on Lionel Barrymore, Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Riff Raff was patterned after George Raft, known for playing gangsters in films of the 1930’s and 1940’s, including the original “Scarface”. Howard Stern’s father, Ben, produced the audio tracks for the Underdog show.
Underdog Episode #120, Batty Man Part 4
In addition, some clips of Underdog’s black and white next show bumpers, promos, and alternate credits, along with the original open for the Go Go Gophers are included. One of the few things missing from the set is an Underdog cereal commercial, shown here.
“Underdog Complete Collector’s Edition” also comes with a 20 page booklet, with more on the canine superhero’s history and an episode guide. Arnold, author of the 2009 book “Created and Produced by Total TeleVision productions”, did a nice job writing the informative liner notes.
So, kudos to Shout Factory on this Underdog box set. They’re also releasing a “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales” six DVD collection this month.
Five classic U.S. TV shows still unavailable on home video
- Five classic U.S. TV shows still unavailable on home video
Since the advent of the VCR, classic TV fans have been able to buy home video copies of some of their favorite shows. However, many programs still remain unreleased on DVD and Blu-ray. Marshall Fish discusses five of them.