Along with TMNT, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was the other phenomenon to enthrall children’s imaginations and parents’ wallets for years. And, like the Turtles before them, others were quick to capitalize on this new-found market, including Rangers creator Saban. Honestly, it was a scary time. If Power Rangers was considered the pinnacle of the live action sci-fi monster fighting genre, then these pale in comparison. Hey, at least they tried.
Let’s go chronologically. First, there’s VR Troopers, the most Power Ranger-like show on the list. Created by Saban, it debuted the year after Rangers, in 1994. Like Rangers, it’s a mix of newly filmed live-action footage and three Japanese shows that I won’t name because I don’t think you care. The team was composed of three members, rather than five. The premise is Power Rangers down to a T. Karate obsessed teenagers in California are called on by some crazy scientist guy trapped in space or something to fight stuff. This was not only a Power Rangers cash-in, but an attempt to capitalize on the VR craze of the ’90s. It’s like Lawnmower Man, but for kids (look it up).
Dropping the same time as VR Troopers was Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, which doesn’t explain the premise at all. It’s Power Rangers, but in a computer. For me this one was the best because the villain, Kilokahn (hehe), was voiced by Tim Curry. Sold. The star was Matthew Lawrence. He was the ’90s … um … Justin Bieber? I don’t know who kids like these days. Nick Carter? Whatever. Oh wait, rather than the team creating a giant robot, the main guy’s friends made armor for him. That’s different at least.
The worst one of this list was Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. That just says it all right there. Then, and now, it was hard not to feel bad for these “actors.” In a bid to make themselves standout, or likely because they couldn’t afford the licensing fees, the four main characters wore wrestling singlets (spandex) and masks, and did faux martial arts as they fought guys in monster costumes surrounded by cutouts of mountains. On second thought, this one’s my favorite.
Next is Masked Rider, another Saban joint. An alien prince is given powers and sent to Earth to defend it from bugs. Two things worth noting. The lead actor, T.J. Roberts, looked like a total pansy. My 8-year-old could beat him in a fight (she’s pretty scary). Second, holy racial diversity. I’m all for shows/movies/games that don’t exclusively star white people, but not when it’s forced. A white dad, Asian mom, white daughter, and black son. That just seems contrived. Also, what the #$%* is a Ferbus?
Almost done, promise. Saban strikes again with Big Bad Beetleborgs. Kids broke into a haunted house, apparently the same one where Universal was storing all their monsters, and found a ghost (there’s no way that’s not Jay Leno). He gives them powers because, why not. Their characters are based on comic book characters from their world. On an unrelated note, this show premiered in 1996, the same year Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy.
And wrapping things up we have two for one. Saban tried to branch out of the sci-fi monster bit with The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, based on some Irish myths. It was meh, but commendable for trying something different. Finally, arriving way too late in 2001 was Los Luchadores, a Canadian show that aired in the states. Three Luchadores defended
Vancouver Union City from an evil scientist / Chihuahua. I swear I am not making that up. Really.
Somehow, through it all, the true king of … whatever this is called, Power Rangers, has survived through the years, recently celebrating its 20th anniversary. I don’t know if I’m more afraid of the next craze or of the clones it will inspire.
Which of these was your favorite (ironic answers accepted)? Any I missed? Comment below!
Japan is weird.