Pop Culture Vomit Bag!: "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" (1972)
Josie and the Pussycats.
Long tails. Ears for hats.
Guitars. Sharps and flats.
One of the better known Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1970s, a decade which saw more forgettable creations such as The Super Globetrotters , The Robonic Stooges and The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (never heard of them? don't be surprised), Josie and the Pussycats debuted on CBS' Saturday morning lineup during the 1971-72 season. Retooled from Dan DeCarlo's Archie Comics series to fit the junior-sleuth formula which Scooby Doo proved successful, the show had the all-girl trio, their manager, their manager's sister, their pet cat and a roadie-slash-love-interest touring the world, getting mixed up in strange mysteries and chased around by an assortment of mad scientists and cult leaders and whatnot. Perhaps what people remember most about the cartoon is the music, from its catchy opening theme song to the tunes played during concert and chase scenes--Hanna-Barbera went as far as to put together a girl group based on the cartoon to provide their singing voices.
The following year, the concept was re- retooled into a completely new series...same cast, same predicaments, same music, same basic plot.
One minor detail...for no particular reason, they were now LOST IN SPACE.
Here's the basic story from what the title sequence tells us: Josie and company are being photographed in front of the entrance to a rocket ship for some reason when Alexandra, in a desperate attempt to steal the spotlight from their red-headed leader, accidentally knocks everyone inside the cockpit and then inadvertently pulls a lever on the console which launches the rocket into space with them inside it. Now they must pilot their wayward vessel back to Earth (good thing Valerie is the smart one and therefore knows how to fly this ship), which proves to be difficult as for some unknown reason they veer off course to a different planet every episode and get mixed up in whatever shenanigans are going on with the local inhabitants.
Allow me to describe for you a typical episode:
- Josie and company's ship gets drawn onto an alien planet somehow.
- Shortly after landing, Josie and company explore their new surroundings and eventually meet the baddies of the week.
- Baddies of the week reveal their plans to invade Earth or something, and some or all of the group get captured and thrown into some sort of prison cell.
- All who get captured escape and outwit said baddies, and somewhere along the way we get a song.
- They take off with their course set for Earth until Alexandra screws everything up and they're sent flying off to another random alien planet.
Animate at a $300* budget for thirty minutes and serve lukewarm. Makes sixteen servings.
(*Adjusted for inflation from 1972.)
Literally, it's the SAME STORY every episode! Different aliens, different planets, SAME FRICKING STORY! This has to be the least imaginative meddling-kids cartoon in Hanna-Barbera's catalog, and coming from one of many cartoons of its time which had the same formula, that says a mouthful. And the production values are deplorable even by 1970s standards; the animation is horrible and the alien creature designs aren't all that impressive. The villains on the show have distinct human features, and one episode featured a menagerie of "alien creatures" which included A GIANT RABBIT and A GIANT DUCK. This has to be the laziest cartoon ever made.
But wait, IT GETS WORSE! As if Sebastian the cat wasn't already pulling his weight as the token animal mascot, we get a new non-human addition to the main cast--little Bleep, a small Pokemon-Monchichi-Snuggles-mascot like creature who can only speak his own name over and over again (despite which only Melody the resident airhead can understand anything he says). What is the point of this new character, this creature who looks like a Blue Meanie that shrank in the washing machine? He's ugly, he's annoying, and he adds little if anything to the storyline. What was he there for, to sell toys or something? Were there Bleep dolls available in toy stores back in 1972? What is his reason for being?
I have always held a belief that everything in this world has a purpose. Good, bad, or indifferent, pretty, ugly, or nondescript, all things great and small were created with some intention for its being. This cartoon, however, is a notable exception. There is no point to it. There is no point to ANYTHING about it. Why are they in space? Why is every planet they land on inhabited by alien species who want to capture them as Earthling samples or steal their spaceship to launch an invasion of Earth? Why do the aliens who want to invade Earth want to invade Earth? What is the deal with Bleep? What IS Bleep? Why does this show exist? There is no point to ANY OF IT!
I am truly grateful that this travesty only lasted sixteen episodes--most Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the late sixties on never lasted longer than one season, regardless of quality--and yet this feeling is soured by the fact that we are forced to associate it with one of the most memorable nostalgic cartoons of all time.
(BTW: We never do see the gang get back to Earth in the series, but they did have a guest appearance on an episode of The New Scooby Doo Movies in 1973, so at least they did find their way home somehow. Maybe they wised up and tied Alexandra to a chair or something. And Bleep was nowhere to be found, too--they probably ditched him on some far-off planet, or preferably threw him out of an airlock--irritating piece of carpet lint.)