February 29, 2016
February 27, 2016
Family Matters was a sitcom that ran from 1989 to 1998 across two networks. Spinning off from Perfect Strangers, the series initially focused on the lives of the members of the Winslow family: Chicago police officer Carl (Reginald VelJohnson), former Perfect Strangers elevator operator Harriet (Jo Marie Payton), their eldest son Eddie (Darius McCrary), their middle daughter Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) and their youngest daughter Judy (for the first four seasons played by Jaimee Foxworth), as well as Harriet’s live-in widowed sister Rachel Crawford (Telma Hopkins), her son Richie (Bryton McClure, originally portrayed as a baby by twins Joseph & Julius Wright) and Carl’s mother Estelle (Rosetta LeNoire). That is until halfway through the first season when the Winslow’s annoying neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) was introduced. In what was intended only to be a one-shot appearance, the audience was taken with the stereotypical nerd and he quickly became the central character of the show with his clumsy antics, bizarre science experiments, and zany attempts to win Laura’s heart. After nine seasons, the series had secured its place in history as the third longest-running series with a central African-American cast.
In the meantime, by 1991 the country was in the grip of Urkel-Mania. The character prominently adorned all merchandise including books, a Milton Bradley board game, a Colorforms playset, and even a talking doll. Ralston, not one to miss a licensing opportunity, jumped on the Urkel bandwagon and created a cereal based around the character.
|Fishing with Urkel.|
Urkel-Os was a strawberry and banana flavored cereal that came in generic ring shapes reminiscent of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops. While the cereal itself didn’t have much to do with Urkel (probably a good thing, since the character’s favorite food was cheese), the box more than made up for it with several images of the character in various dancing poses around the box. On the back panel came one of two games; “Fishing with Urkel” or “Find Laura.”
The advertisement for the cereal featured Urkel on the set of Rachel’s Place (the eating establishment owned by Rachel) rapping about his latest scheme to win the love of Laura by creating the cereal. None of the other Family Matters characters appeared, and Laura was represented by a picture frame whose front the audience never saw.
Promotions included an air car game (the box became a track and had “cars” you could cut out and blow on to race), an offer for free fruit and a chance to meet Urkel in Hollywood. When the cereal offered a chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1992, the Urkel on the front of the box was given an Uncle Sam-like costume with a drum to play, and came with “Urkel for President” campaign button stickers.
THE SUPER GLOBETROTTERS
(NBC, September 22-December 15, 1979)
Frank Welker – Crime Globe, Attila the Hun, Eagle, Fenwick, igor, Weird Beard, Make-Up Master, Putt Putt
Michael Rye – Narrator, announcer, Lightning Man, Mayor of Breadbasket City, Whaleman
Spinning off from Hanna-Barbera’s earlier The Harlem Globetrotters, The Super Globetrotters saw The Harlem Globetrotters serving as the cover for their true identities: The Super Globetrotters. To protect the world from evil, the Globetrotters would challenge the villains and their henchmen to basketball games for whatever goal or object they have in mind for their nefarious plans.
|Character model sheet.|
Like the earlier series, while the show featured the names and likenesses of members of the actual Globetrotters team, they were instead voiced by professional voice actors. Reprising their earlier roles were Stu Gilliam as Freddy “Curly” Neal and Johnny Williams as Hubert “Geese” Ausbie. Scatman Crothers also returned, but as his original character of George “Meadowlark” Lemon was no longer a Globetrotter by the time the series entered production, he was instead cast as Nate Branch. Replacing the other departed Globetrotters were James “Twiggy” Sanders (Buster Jones) and Louis “Sweet Lou” Dunbar (Adam Wade).
|Multi-Man, Super Sphere, Gizmo, Spaghetti Man and Liquid Man.|
Each Globetrotter possessed incredible powers granted to them whenever they stepped into magical portable lockers. Hanna-Barbera recycled the powers, identities and moves of three of the Globetrotters from the Impossibles segment of Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles: Branch was Liquid Man (sometimes referred to his Impossibles counterpart’s name of “Fluid Man” or “Aquaman”, and still bore the former’s “F” logo on his suit) and could turn himself into water; Sanders was Spaghetti Man (based on Coil Man), who could stretch and manipulate his body; and Ausbie was Multi Man, who could create duplicates of himself. New for the series was Neal as Super Sphere, who could retract his limbs into his basketball head in order to bounce, smash and grow; and Dunbar as Gizmo, who could pull an unlimited supply of gadgets for any situation out of his afro. They were alerted to problems and aided by a basketball-shaped satellite called Crime Globe (Frank Welker).
|Attila and his Huns.|
Facing off against the Globetrotters was an eclectic blend of colorful one-off foes voiced by an assortment of frequent Hanna-Barbera players. Amongst them was Museum Man (Herb Vigran), a disgruntled janitor who had a remote control that could bring fossils and statues to life; Facelift (John Stephenson, who also portrayed several other villains), a nuclear-powered alien that could steal anyone’s face for use on his Demon Droids; Whaleman (Michal Rye), a pirate who used a mechanical whale in his crimes; Bad Blue Bart (Paul Winchell), a western outlaw who used a remote-controlled Phantom Cowboy (also Winchell) to take over a ranch; The Time Lord (Don Messick), who could alter time using a crystal and summoned villains of history to aid him; and Count Bragula (Lennie Weinrib), a vampire with ambitions to dominate Transylvania. A real person also crossed paths with the Globetrotters in the form of Attila the Hun (Welker), who was shunted forward in time following a scientist through his time machine.
|Teamwork makes the dream work!|
The Super Globetrotters followed executive Fred Silverman from CBS, home of the original, to NBC where it debuted on September 22, 1979. The series was written by Tom Dagenais, Rowby Goren, Andy Heyward, Robby London and Larry Parr. It ran until December 1st when it was combined with Hanna-Barbera’s Godzilla to create The Godzilla/Globetrotters Adventure Hour. Both shows played out their respective seasons as part of this block and continued on as reruns until September 20, 1980. Instead of using the team’s theme song “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Brother Bones, the series employed a sound-alike whistle theme composed by Hoyt Curtin.
|Ad for the DVD release.|
Because the series was solely produced and owned by Hanna-Barbera, it was the first of the two shows to be released to DVD through Warner Archive’s Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection. The original Globetrotters series was co-owned by CBS Productions who maintain its rights. This was also the final series starring the Globetrotters, although they were the stars of the 1981 television movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. The team and their various members continued to appear or be referenced on television programs, films and documentaries over the years while also continuing to perform on the court almost 500 times a year shared between three different rosters.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Museum Man” (9/22/79) – Museum Man brings dinosaur skeletons to life in order to take over Big City.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Bwana Bob” (9/29/79) – Bwana Bob plans to hunt the passengers of a grounded cruise ship and the Globetrotters.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. The Facelift” (10/6/79) – The alien Facelift plans to put the faces of world leaders on his Demon Droids to control the world.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Whaleman” (10/13/79) – Whaleman uses a mechanical whale to steal supertankers full of oil.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Robo and the Globots” (10/20/79) – Robo builds robotic duplicates of the Globetrotters in order to discredit them and get revenge on G.G. Godfrey.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Tattoo Man” (10/27/79) – Space pirate Tattoo Man comes to Earth to steal gold.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Movie Man” (11/3/79) – Movie Man plans to steal a top secret robot full of Globetron.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. The Phantom Cowboy” (11/10/79) – The Globetrotters try to put an end to the Phantom Cowboy’s western crime spree.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. The Time Lord” (11/17/79) – Time Lord steals a time machine and recruits criminals from history.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Transylvania Terrors” (11/24/79) – Count Bragula and his Terrors plan to take over Transylvania.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Bull Moose” (12/1/79) – Bull Moose steals the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs to complete his golden ray.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Merlo the Magician” (12/8/79) – Merlo and his knights steal the world’s monuments.
“The Super Globetrotters vs. Attila the Hun” (12/15/79) – Atilla and his Huns follow a scientist through his time machine and raid San Francisco.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.
February 20, 2016
THE GARY COLEMAN SHOW
(NBC, September 18-December 11, 1982)
Gary Coleman – Andrew “Andy” LeBeau
Jennifer Darling – Angelica
Sidney Miller – Hornswoggle
Lauren Anders – Chris
Julie McWhirter Dees – Lydia
Geoffrey Gordon – Haggle
LaShana Dendy – Tina
Jerry Houser – Bartholomew
Calvin Mason – Spence
Steve Schatzberg – Mack
Casey Kasem – Opening narrator
While small in stature, Gary Coleman was pretty big in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Coleman began his career in 1974 by appearing in a commercial for Harris Bank. After several guest spots on established television shows, he found his claim to fame when he was cast as Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes. With that role came other opportunities, including the chance to star in several television movies.
In 1982, Coleman starred in The Kid with the Broken Halo. He was Andy LeBeau, a wise-cracking angel-in-training who was sent to Earth in order to perform good deeds to win his wings. While the movie itself wasn’t a runaway hit, Coleman was still a name to bank on and NBC decided to translate the film into an animated series.
|Character model sheet.|
Produced by Hanna-Barbera and Zephyr Productions, one of the studios behind the film, The Gary Coleman Show focused on the continuing adventures of apprentice guardian angel Andy (Coleman) as his supervisor Angelica (Jennifer Darling) sent him down to perform assigned good deeds in the town of Oakville. Hampering his efforts most of the time was a being known as Hornswoggle (Sidney Miller), who would trick Andy into making the wrong choices and having to clean up the resulting mess afterwards (although, Andy was quite capable of fouling things up himself). To make matters worse Hornswoggle was invisible to Angelica, leading her to doubt his existence in Andy’s explanations.
|Angelica is unable to see Hornswoggle.|
The subjects of Andy’s help (and trouble) were his Earth-bound friends. Amongst them was klutzy Batholomew (Jerry Houser) who had a crush on spoiled rich girl Lydia (Julie McWhirter Dees); genius Spence (Calvin Mason) with a verbose vocabulary; Spence’s little sister Tina (LaShana Dendy), who had a crush on Andy; Haggle (Geoffrey Gordon), who often spoke in rhyme; and athletic Chris (Lauren Anders). Occasionally they were at odds with the local bully and braggart Mack (Steve Schatzberg). While on Earth, Andy would remove his halo to become visible to his friends and appear human. Donning it again allowed him to access his angelic powers.
|Spence finds Andy's halo.|
The Gary Coleman Show debuted on September 18, 1982 on NBC. The opening narration describing the premise was provided by Casey Kasem over music by Hoyt Curtin. It was written by Cliff Roberts, Dianne Dixon, Martin Werner, Robert Jayson (who also wrote for Diff’rent Strokes), Paul Dini, Peter Dixon, John Bates, Janis Diamond, Mark Shiney, David Villaire, Bob Langhans, Larry Parr, Sandy Fries, Allan Heldfond, John T. Graham and Tom Ruegger. It was animated by a Mexican animation studio that Hanna-Barbera had set up expressly for work on this series. However, complications arose when animation came back incorrect; such as Andy’s skin being rendered as Caucasian. Geoffrey Gordon was an NBC page when he was cast in the role of Haggle, which became the first cartoon character ever to rap.
|Batholomew tries to get in shape to impress Lydia.|
The series only lasted a single season of 13 episodes, each broken up into two 11-minute segments. It re-aired in syndicated reruns on Cartoon Network in the 1990s and again in 2006 as part of their Adult Swim programming block. The reruns omitted the Kasem narration from the intro. Antioch Publishing Editors produced several books based on the series both adapting the episodes and featuring original stories.
“Fouled Up Fossils / Going, Going, Gone” (9/18/82) – Spence, Tina and Andy join an archaeologist on a dig in Oakville. / Andy helps Bartholomew round up items for an auction.
“You Oughtta’ Be In Pictures / Derby Daze” (9/25/82) – Andy has to save Lydia’s film in order to help Chris become a star. / Andy tries to help Bartholomew win the soap box derby for a date with Lydia.
“Hornswoggle’s Hoax / Calamity Canine” (10/1/82) – Hornswoggle disguises himself as Angelica to trick Andy into exposing his identity. / Andy takes to protecting a klutzy dog from the dog catcher.
“Cupid Andy / Space Odd-Essey” (10/8/82) – Andy is assigned to help Bartholomew win over Lydia. / Andy and Tina mistake a movie production for an alien invasion.
“Hornswoggle’s New Leaf / Keep On Movin’ On” (10/15/82) – Hornswoggle tricks Andy into believing he’s turned good in order to discredit Andy with his friends. / Andy and the gang help Mrs. Trindle move into her new house.
“Mansion Madness / Wuthering Kites” (10/22/82) – A sick Bartholomew accidentally messes up Lydia’s mother’s new carpet. / Andy and the gang try to retrieve Tina’s kite.
“In the Swim / Put Up or Fix Up” (10/29/82) – Lydia invites everyone but Chris to her pool party. / Angelica assigns Andy to fix up an old building so that the gang can have a safe place to hang out.
“Haggle and Double Haggle / The Royal Visitor” (11/6/82) – Hornswoggle frames Haggle for spending the gang’s money on a new baseball mitt. / Lydia goes on a gift-shopping spree for a visiting royal guest while Tina makes one.
“The Future Tense / Dr. Livingston, I Presume” (11/13/82) – Tina gets a crystal ball that seems to actually predict the future. / Andy goes with Tina to meet her scientist cousin at the airport.
“Haggle’s Luck / Head in the Clouds” (11/20/82) – Hornswoggle tricks Haggle into thinking a charm will protect him from any kind of harm. / Spence becomes so engrossed in his studies that he forgets about everything else.
“Teacher’s Pest / Andy Sings the Blues” (11/27/82) – Andy takes a final examination. / Mack gets credit for Andy’s preventing a train disaster.
“Easy Money / Take My Tonsils – Please” (12/4/82) – Andy helps Haggle on his babysitting job. / Tina runs away to avoid having her tonsils taken out.
“The Prettiest Girl in Oakville / Mack’s Snow Job” (12/11/82) – Spence and Bartholomew go crazy over Chris when she shows up in a new dress. / The gang just wants to enjoy the snow, but Mack has other plans.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.
(CBS, September 15-December 8, 1984)
Sid & Marty Krofft Productions
Richard Pryor – Richard Pryor, various
Akili Prince – Little Richie Pryor
Cliffy Magee – Wally
Danny Nucci – Freddy
Tony Cox – Allen
Keland Love – Meatrack
Leanne Richelle – Patty
Michael Sheehan – Puppeteer
Richard Pryor was a stand-up comedian who didn’t shy away from highlighting social injustices in his routines with a liberal amount of profanity.
|Pryor sharing an anecdote.|
Beginning in New York in 1963, Pryor’s act was more reminiscent of Bill Cosby’s middlebrow routine using safe material (at the behest of his early advisors). Although he found success and began appearing on television with this style, in 1967 he had a self-described “epiphany” after feeling creatively stifled and began incorporating profanity into his act. In 1969 he moved to California where he continued releasing comedy albums and began writing for televisions shows such as Sanford and Son, The Flip Wilson Show and Lily Tomlin’s 1973 special for which he won an Emmy Award. While engaging in a successful movie career, he also tried to break into mainstream television with an appearance on Saturday Night Live. After starring in the 1976 film Silver Streak, Pryor became a bankable commodity in Hollywood.
In 1977, Pryor received his own show, The Richard Pryor Show, on NBC. However, it was cancelled after only four episodes due to the audience’s inability to handle his controversial subject matter and Pyror’s unwillingness to tame things down for network censors. However, in 1983, Sid and Marty Krofft had gotten the idea that Pryor could find additional success on Saturday morning television, much like Cosby had with Fat Albert, and approached CBS. CBS agreed to it if they could land Pryor as well as get the rerun rights to the Kroffts’ previous hit, The Land of the Lost. At the time, Pryor was focusing on more family-oriented projects as part of an effort to clean himself up after having set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine in 1980. That shift in his focus, and his love of children (not to mention a very persuasive Marty Krofft) led Pryor to agree to do the show.
|Living bread and anthropomorphic rats populate Pryor's Place.|
Pryor’s Place was an urban version of Sesame Street. It starred real people interacting with puppets (a pair of rats and living baked goods to name a few) to teach life lessons to children. However, the topics were far edgier as they included shoplifting, divorce and child abuse, amongst others. The set was modeled after the neighborhood where Pryor grew up, accenting the anecdotes Pryor would share with the audience (which were sanitized for network television, more than biographical) that set the theme for the episode to follow. Pryor, along with playing himself, starred as a variety of characters including a Rastafarian and a wino character he previously employed on stage. Akili Prince played Pryor’s younger self, whom the televised adventures would usually focus around along with his friend, Wally (Cliffy Magee). The show featured sketches and musical numbers written by long-time Pryor collaborator Paul Mooney with Lorne Frohman and Mark Evanier. Pryor’s direct involvement behind the scenes was limited due to other ongoing projects dominating his focus, but he was dedicated to doing something positive for children and put his all into his time on set.
|CBS' 1984 Saturday morning ad with Pryor front and center.|
CBS was banking heavily on the success of Pryor’s Place. So much so, that they prominently displayed Pryor on their ads for their 1984 line-up and made it the central focus of their preview show, Saturday’s the Place. Airing the night of Friday, September 14th, it was written and co-produced by Evanier, hosted by Joyce DeWitt and featured Howie Mandel (who starred in Muppet Babies at the time) and Ted Knight. The special showed clips from Place, along with other new CBS offerings such as Muppet Babies, Dungeons and Dragons, The Get Along Gang and Saturday Supercade. Pryor’s Place officially debuted on Saturday, September 15th with a theme song by Ray Parker, Jr., who also appeared in the intro and an episode. Parker had enjoyed success earlier in the year with his smash hit song, “Ghostbusters”.
The series employed a wide list of who’s who in celebrity guest stars thanks to Pryor’s involvement. However, rather than just being a ratings stunt, they were strategically cast in order to emphasize the message of their particular episode. Among them were Tomlin, Robin Williams, Kim Fields, Willie Nelson, William Marshall, Pat Morita, Rip Taylor, Sammy Davis, Jr., Scatman Crothers, Ron Cey, Kareem Abdul-Jabbaar, Henry Winkler, John Ritter, Shirley Hemphill, and California chief justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.
|Little Richie with Pryor as a Rastafarian.|
The series was nominated for a Huamnitas Prize for “Children’s Live-Action Category: Home Free” and several Daytime Emmy awards. It only won the Emmy for “Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design” and “Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design.” Unfortunately, while it earned the respect of awards committees, it failed to reach a significant audience. Part of that was due to its being broadcast in the 11:30 timeslot, which in some markets was reserved for local programming and resulted in its being pushed back. The low-key humor was also pointed out as being a possible cause, failing to grab audiences who may have been expecting something different from Pryor.
|The kids of Pryor's Place.|
“High Noon at 5:30 P.M.” (9/15/84) – Richie faces off with the neighborhood bully.
“To Catch a Little Thief” (9/22/84) – Richie steals a basketball to get in good with a street gang.
“Love Means Never…” (9/29/84) – Richard recalls his painful first grade first romance.
“Voyage to the Planet of the Dumb” (10/6/84) – Richie and his friends skip school and end up transported to a planet where stupidity rules.
“Close Encounters of…” (10/13/84) – Richie tries to get a fuzzy alien home.
“Sax Education” (10/20/84) – Richie loses a saxophone and learns responsibility.
“Readers of the Lost Art” (12/27/84) – Richie and Wally are tricked into experiencing the “uncool” act of reading.
“Divorce Children’s Style” (11/3/84) – Divorce sometimes happens, but what does it do to the kids involved?
“The Kimosabe Blues” (11/10/84) – Richie and Wally’s argument threatens their friendship.
“The Showoff” (11/17/84) – Richie is terrified to perform in front of his first audience.
“Cousin Rita” (11/24/84) – Little Richie’s friend has a crush on his older cousin.
“Home Free” (12/1/84) – Amanda reveals a traumatic incident from her past to Richie.
“Too Old Too Soon, Too Smart Too Late” (12/8/84) – Richie learns the importance of respecting elders.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.
February 16, 2016
February 13, 2016
TARZAN AND THE SUPER 7: SUPERSTRETCH AND MICROWOMAN
(CBS, September 16, 1978-January 1, 1979)
Ty Henderson – Superstretch/Chris Cross
Kim Hamilton – Microwoman/Christy Cross
Howard Morris – Lt. Buzz Tucker
For the 1977 season, Filmation paired up the second season of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle with reruns of The New Adventures of Batman in a block called The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour. With the show block being successful, Filmation decided to use the two established shows as a hook to bring audiences in for some new content.
In 1978, they renamed the block Tarzan and the Super 7 (the Super 7 referencing the seven different shows that would be featured with Tarzan) and expanded it to an hour and a half. Along with Tarzan and Batman, Filmation included the additional segments of The Freedom Force, Jason of Star Command, Manta and Moray, Superstretch and Microwoman, and Web Woman. Another segment, Sunlight and Starbright, was planned but never produced (technically making it the Super SIX).
|Microwoman and Trouble.|
Superstretch and Microwoman focused on the first pair of married African-American crime fighting partners on Saturday morning. Scientist Chris Cross (Ty Henderson) discovered a formula that would allow him to stretch his body into any shape and gave his wife, Christy (Kim Hamilton), the ability to shrink to microscopic size. Together they fought crime as Superstretch and Microwoman, with the help of their dog Trouble, whom Christy rode when she shrank. Unlike other superheroes, the pair never wore costumes; although they did wear matching slacks and sweaters that were capable of changing shape with their bodies. Most notable was that the characters were the first African-American married couple depicted on Saturday morning.
|Promo for the segment.|
The block debuted on September 9, 1978 on CBS, but only five of the included segments aired each week. Superstretch and Microwoman would alternate its place with Web Woman every Saturday beginning on the 16th. After the block’s debut, DC Comics sued Filmation for copyright infringement, claiming Superstretch and Manta and Moray were blatant rip-offs of their characters Plastic Man and Aquaman, respectively. Filmation had previously produced an Aquaman cartoon in association with DC, and was in talks to produce a Plastic Man series (made instead by Ruby-Spears Productions). The courts found in favor DC in both a 1980 decision and a 1986 appeal. As a result, no new segments were produced for Superstretch and had never seen release to home media.
EPISODE GUIDE (dates are approximate):
“Bad Things Come in Small Packages” (9/16/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“The Ringmaster” (9/30/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“The Toymaker” (10/14/78) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Future Tense” (10/28/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Phantom in the Sewers” (11/11/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Shadow on the Swamp” (11/25/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“The Great Candy Bar Caper” (12/9/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“The Superstretch Bowl” (12/16/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Superstarch and Magnawoman” (12/30/78) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Sugar Spice” (1/13/79) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
“Gnome Man’s Land” (1/27/79) - NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE
C-BEAR AND JAMAL
(FOX, February 3, 1996-February 22, 1997)
Tone Loc – C-Bear
Arthur Reggie III – Jamal Harrison Wingo
George L. Wallace – Hawthorne Wingo
Dawnn Lewis – Grandma
Darryl Sivad – Grandpa
Kim Fields Freeman – Maya
Aries Spears – Big Chill, Kwame
Jeannie Elias – Chipster
Margaret Cho – Kim
Paul Rodriguez – Javier
Danny Mann - Sooner
Jamal Wingo (Arthur Reggie III) was a young boy living in South Central Los Angeles with his father (George L. Wallace) and grandparents (Dawnn Lewis & Darryl Sirvad). One day, Jamal was encouraged to start growing up and give up some of his childish things, including his teddy bear, the sunglasses and baggy pants wearing C-Bear (rapper Tone Loc). But, C-Bear magically came to life and ended up becoming Jamal’s best friend. C-Bear was able to help Jamal deal with important life lessons by taking him on magical fantasy adventures as well as show him he didn’t need to lose his youthful outlook in order to grow up. Of course, the sarcastic bear was far from perfect and sometimes landed Jamal in just as much trouble as he would himself before helping to turn it all around.
|C-Bear and Jamal having a pillow fight.|
The series was created by Earl Richey Jones and Todd R. Jones with Franklyn Ajaye and Barry Douglas, taking inspiration from Loc’s childhood and his own fantasy adventures he would have with a teddy bear. Loc also served as an executive producer, along with Phil Roman of Film Roman and Fox Kids’ Margaret Loesch, and provided the vocals and lyrics for the show’s theme. Kurt Farquhar composed the rest of the series’ music, each episode featuring one musical number in relation to the plot and lesson. Film Roman and Loc brought the series to the attention of FOX Children’s Television executive Roland Poindexter who was not only attracted to the series because of Loc, but also because it allowed them to tell good stories from the little-seen perspective of an African American youth.
|The kid cast: C-Bear, Jamal, Maya, Kim, Chipster, Big Chill, Kwame and Sooner.|
Care was taken to preserve the authenticity of the series. Rather than keeping the cast limited to one particular race or culture, the producers chose to adequately represent the Los Angeles population with the mix of people that actually resided there. This was best represented in the form of Jamal’s human friends. Amongst them were Maya (Kim Fields Freeman), who was a very loud and opinionated, although extremely smart, African American girl; Big Chill, a large chubby kid who was always hungry and introduced himself with the phrase “the b-i-g c-h-i-double l is in the hizouse”; Kwame (both Aries Spears), an Afrocentric kid who wore African clothing and often found conspiracies by “the Man” whenever he was displeased with circumstances; Chipster (Jeannie Elias), their odd white friend who enjoys making others laugh; Kim (Margaret Cho), Jamal’s Korean friend and Maya’s best friend; and Javier (Paul Rodriguez), Jamal’s Hispanic friend.
The show debuted on February 3, 1996 as part of the Fox Kids block for an abbreviated first season before returning that September. The series was a hit with parents and teachers for the topics it dealt with and the lessons it provided. Although there was a healthy dose of slapstick comedy featured in C-Bear’s ongoing battle with family dog Sooner (Danny Mann) and grandma having access to some unusual items from out of nowhere, the producers made sure that the adults, while quirky, were presented as good role models and equally important to helping Jamal’s development as C-Bear. Likewise, scenes at school were done in a respectful manner to emphasize the importance of education and ensured the teacher was invested in the development of the students.
The series was a likely candidate for a renewal, but internal politics ultimately led to its demise. Saban Entertainment had acquired Fox Kids and wanted to put a greater focus on programs produced in-house; meaning all outside programming had to go in order to make room for Saban-produced shows (a similar occurrence happened after Disney purchased ABC). That included C-Bear and Jamal, amongst other family-favorite programs. Xenon Entertainment Group released three VHS collections with three episodes each in the early 2000s. They later combined them into a single DVD release. Starz Media currently has the rights to the show, however Urban Movie Channel offers it for streaming view through Amazon with a subscription to their channel.
“Rip Van Winkle” (2/3/96) – C-Bear takes Jamal to the future to show him what can happen if he keeps sleeping through school.
“Emperor’s New Gear” (2/10/96) – Jamal is unhappy with the new clothes his father bought him.
“Big” (2/17/96) – On Jamal’s 10th birthday, he decides act like more of a grown-up starting with leaving C-Bear at home.
“Teeing Off” (9/21/96) – C-Bear helps Jamal figure out where his true talents lie when he disastrously tries out for the golf team.
“The Prince and the Po’ Boy” (9/28/96) – Jamal becomes embarrassed about being middle class when he meets a rich cousin and begins to act more upper crust.
“Raging Bully” (10/12/96) – C-Bear helps Jamal better understand the mindset of a bully.
“Hanging with Mr. Wingo” (11/2/96) – Jamal loses respect for his father when Jamal discovers his job isn’t as exciting as he once believed.
“Big Head Jamal” (11/9/96) – It goes to Jamal’s head when he’s cast in a commercial.
“Sleepless in South Central” (11/16/96) – Jamal starts feeling neglected when his father starts daring the attractive mail carrier.
“Dumbing Down” (11/23/96) – Jamal convinces Maya she’ll lose all her friends with her better grades and that she should bring herself to their levels.
“The Truth and Nothing But the Truth” (2/1/97) – Jamal lies to get onto the school paper, but lies soon become blunt truth.
“Puppy Love” (2/15/97) – Jamal wants to ask a girl to the Spring dance and fumbles through various ways to do it.
“Most Valuable Grandpa” (2/22/97) – Jamal gains a new respect for his grandfather when he has to replace Jamal’s father at the Parent/Student Picnic.