The Saturday Morning Cartoon landscape is a strange one. Instead of gambling on the unproven, many shows have been based on established properties. Seriously, like, a lot. I originally intended this article to be much shorter, only covering a specific type of spin-off. The more I dug, the more I found. I don’t want to inundate you with some giant list of shows (it’s a long list). Instead, I want to highlight a few gems from the spin-off categories I’ve invented that will make you scratch your head. First up, R-to-G Rated.
This was my original idea. There are few shows from the late ’80s and early ’90s that took their inspiration from R-rated movies. I could see the appeal with some of these licenses, but others make me ask what they were thinking. Sometimes my parents didn’t know any better, so when I asked to watch the movie version of my favorite cartoon, it usually didn’t end well.
RoboCop was designed for kids. The guy stored his gun inside his thigh, spinning it around his index finger before holstering. What kid wouldn’t be all over that? After some toys, a horrible NES game, and the animated series, I needed to watch the movie. I was entirely too young. My parents, only knowing RoboCop the way I did, let me watch it unsupervised. By the time they saw how violent it was, I had about 8 viewings under my belt. Haven’t seen the original? Just watch this. The cartoon changed a few aspects, making it more sci-fi with lasers and what not. The show only lasted 12 episodes in 1988, airing in syndication for years. RoboCop: Alpha Commando, a new series, had 40 episodes in ’98 – ’99. By then Robocop had been diluted enough that it didn’t matter.
Highlander: The Animated Series was incredibly similar to RoboCop in that the initial concept could easily be made for kids. Immortals fought with swords. How badass is that? Only problem is the whole beheading thing. Last I checked, Americans are still trying to convince children that death doesn’t exist. The cartoon followed a group who chose not to fight, avoiding that awkwardness. Highlander: TAS saw 40 episodes and two season from ’94 – ’96. Also, I thought it was McCloud, not MacLeod, for years.
Rambo: The Force of Freedom is one I completely understand. In 1986, when the show aired, G.I. Joe was on its way out, but still incredibly popular. Rambo was aimed at capturing a slice of that. The Force of Freedom featured a Joe-like team, a very Joe-like team. They even had their own ninja, who dressed in white, with a twin brother, who dressed in black, on the bad guy team — Specialist-Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy and Global Extortion, or S.A.V.A.G.E. I think Rambo is the least offensive on this list, also lasting the longest with 65 episodes.
Changing things up a bit, lets talk about Police Academy. This was based on the classic comedy featuring nudity, profanity, BJ jokes, and Kim Cattrall — perfect fodder for the under-12 demographic. While I can see the kid appeal for the previous three cartoons, I don’t get it with this one. The show lasted 64 episodes over two seasons, with one episode never airing in the states. Suck it, Police Academy. Rambo still wins.
The last show I want to discuss isn’t based on a movie, but still merits a place on this list. Tales from the Crypt was an awesome anthology-like horror show on HBO, hosted by the Cryptkeeper (a puppet). If the name HBO didn’t give it away, I can assure you this show was not meant for kids. Tales from the Cryptkeeper, though, was. The show ran from ’93 – ’94, and strangely resurrected in ’97 (probably to capitalize on the success of Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?). A total of 39 episodes by the end. New FCC guidelines (at the time) stipulated that kids shows needed educational aspects. If anyone learned anything from Cryptkeeper, please let me know.
I wouldn’t put any of these shows in the great — or even good — category, but they’re at least passable, if not decent. The Matt Baum question is, did we need any of these? No. I don’t remember anyone of these shows developing followings, or people clamoring for more.
Honorable Mentions: Little Shop, Toxic Crusaders, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, and Friday: TAS.
Which one of these shows made you scratch your head? Any I missed? Scream at your monitor until I respond. I promise I can hear you.
Only show mentioned that I haven’t seen is Friday. I plan on keeping it that way.
Do you like nerd stuffs? Tony does, too! You can checkout his thoughts on comics, movies, video games, books, and board games at thecredhulk.com. He’s been at 50 Facebook likes for 3 months now and has had no new Twitter followers in just as long. Does he need to beg? You wouldn’t like him when he begs…