June 18, 2016

THE KROFFT SUPERSHOW

THE KROFFT SUPERSHOW
(ABC, September 11, 1976-September 2, 1978)


Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions

MAIN CAST:
Michael Lembeck – Kaptain Kool
Debra Clinger – Superchick
Mickey McMeel – Turkey
Louise DuArt – Nashville
Bert Sommer – Flatbush (season 1)


ABC was looking for a way to counter NBC and CBS’ new crop of live-action programs. With the recent success of Sid & Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost, ABC decided to hire the Kroffts to produce a 90-minute block of television for them. The resulting umbrella program was called The Krofft Supershow.

The Supershow line-up.

The Supershow was comprised of segments featuring all-new 12-minute shows: Dr. Shrinker, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and Wonderbug. Rounding out the programming block were reruns of the Krofft’s previous series The Lost Saucer. To fill in the remaining time not taken up by commercial breaks, the Kroffts teamed-up with the Osmond Family, with whom they produced the successful variety show Donny & Marie, to create the series’ mascots: Kaptain Kool and the Kongs.

Turkey, Kaptain Kool, Flatbush, Superchick and Nashville.

Kaptain Kool and the Kongs was a manufactured rock-inspired band that provided entertainment via skits or musical numbers between the Supershow segments, and served as hosts by introducing the segments. The band was led by Kaptain Kool (Michael Lembeck), who wore a colorful quasi-military outfit. The Kongs included the tall and gangly Turkey (Mickey McMeel), who wore stripes and cartoon eyes on his clothing; the southern Nashville (Louise DuArt), whose fashion-sense included butterfly decorations everywhere; the rhyming Flatbush (Bert Sommer), identifiable by his feather-adorned tri-corner hat; and the wide-eyed Superchikc (Debra Clinger), who was covered in hearts. As was popularized by KISS, the band members also sported personalized face paint to go with their crazy costumes. Selected more for their comedic talent than musical skill, most of the music was handled by the Osmond staff.

Ad for ABC's Saturday line-up.

  While The Krofft Supershow would debut on September 11, 1976, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs made their debut the night before as part of the Krofft-produced ABC’s Saturday Sneak Peek. The special was hosted by Jimmy Osmond and featured the rest of his family, Dick Clark, Marty Allen and ventriloquist Chris Kirby. Allen and Clark outlined the origin of the Kongs in a musical number, while the rest of the special was filled by various production numbers and clips from the new shows joining Supershow on ABC’s schedule.

The World of Sid & Marty Krofft amusement park.

For the first season, the Kaptain Kool segments were filmed in and around Atlanta, Georgia; particularly at The World of Sid and Marty Krofft amusement park. The park was housed in what’s now known as the CNN Center and was the first 9-story high-rise amusement park. It was broken up into different worlds representing the various Krofft productions with characters working and performing around the park. Unfortunately, attendance was abysmal (some attribute it to the experience not being worth the price of admission, the Kroffts to the urban blight that plagued Atlanta at the time), and coupled with various technical difficulties the park was closed after a mere six months in November of 1976.

ABC's 1977  Saturday ad.

That same month, ABC’s research department discovered that while ratings were strong for the first hour of Supershow, they plummeted for the last half hour in favor of CBS’ Ark II and NBC’s Big John, Little John. In response, by December ABC had Supershow trimmed down to an hour; reducing the Kongs portion’s time, eliminating The Lost Saucer reruns, and filling the new hole in their schedule with reruns of Super Friends.

Kaptain Kool and the Kongs' new look.

The series was renewed for a second season; however numerous changes were made. ABC placed it a half-hour later in the schedule, still with its 60-minute runtime. While Wonderbug continued, two new segments were produced and aired as part of Supershow: Bigfoot and Wildboy and Magic Mongo. The Kongs received a makeover, as the producers felt their image was getting too old too fast. The Kongs shed their rocker looks in favor of a look more reminiscent of the Bee Gees. They also shed a member, as Flatbush was dropped. The band’s sequences were taped indoors in front of a live audience and were broken up into segments such as “Letters to the Kaptain”, which would have Kaptain Kool dispensing nonsensical advice. The Kroffts and Osmonds had ended their partnership between seasons, putting the band’s music in the hands of Tommy Oliver, who had also worked on Donny & Marie.

Promo cartoon for Kaptain Kool and the Kongs.

At the conclusion of the second season, the show was heavily revamped and moved to NBC as The Krofft Superstar Hour. There, The Kongs were replaced by the Bay City Rollers (whose popularity, interestingly enough, resulted in the eventual cancellation of Donny & Marie); however, the band was retained for guest-appearances in other Krofft productions, American Bandstand and another ABC Saturday preview special. Eventually, Clinger and Lembeck went on to other pursuits while McMeel and DuArt continued working for the Kroffts, resulting in the end of the band.

The Album.

Coinciding with the show, two albums for the Kongs were released: one a straightforward self-titled album from, Epic Records, the other, Stories from the Krofft TV Supershow by Peter Pan Records, included comedy skits. They also released the single “And I Never Dreamed” with the B-side “Sing Me a Song” through Epic. Gold Key published a 6-issue comic series called The New Krofft Supershow, which featured the second season segments and the Kongs. The title was also shared by a picture book from Golden Press. The first season of the show received the lunchbox treatment from Aladdin, while the Kongs had their own electronic organ from Sears, a magic slate from Whitman, a record player from Vanity Fair, a transistor radio from LJN Toys and buttons.

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