July 07, 2018

SUPER PRESIDENT


SUPER PRESIDENT
(NBC, September 16-December 23, 1967)

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Mirisch-Rich Television Productions




MAIN CAST:
Paul Frees – Super President/James Norcross, Narrator, various
Ted Cassidy – Richard Vance/Spy Shadow
Don Messick – Various
Daws Butler – Various
June Foray – Various
Shepard Menken – Various


            The United States of America is a relatively young country when compared to the rest of the world. In that time, there’s only been a few dozen people who have held the title of President. Some were good. Some were terrible. Regardless of your own views of any present or past President, there is one that many largely agree was terrible—even the people who created him! That President is Super President (Paul Frees).

Hero of the people.


            Super President was DePatie-Freleng Enterprises’ entry into the booming action/adventure genre of Saturday morning. The show was broken up into two different segments. Super President focused on the President of “a modern nation”, James Norcross, who also happened to be the superhero Super President. A cosmic storm granted him super strength and the ability to change the molecular composition of his body into anything; including steel, granite, ozone and water. Each change was preceded by the electrons rotating around the nucleus of his atom logo. He could also fly via a jet-powered belt he wore as part of his costume. Otherwise he traveled in his flying Omnicar, which was kept in his lair accessible through a secret entrance in his office. Super President often went against mad scientists, mutated creatures, and terrorists.

The Presidential Mansion.

            Super President never explicitly stated what country Norcross was President of, however it overtly indicated that he was the President of the United States. The original design for Super President featured a red, white and blue design with gold trim and a black hood, until it was changed to the red and white design used on the show. The President’s Mansion resembled The White House with some additions and a new location by the coast of Capitol City. Norcross’ closest ally was Jerry Sales, his special assistant and the only person privy to his dual identity (surprisingly, considering “President” is right there in his name). Sales also served as the show’s “damsel in distress”, frequently being captured and used as leverage against Norcross. The show’s setting was also never specified. While it featured elements indicative of the 1960s, it also exhibited a lot of futuristic technology in both the Mansion and in the villains’ possession.

Richard Vance and Spy Shadow.

            The other feature of the show was Spy Shadow. Secret agent Richard Vance (Ted Cassidy) worked for Interspy, investigating a series of strange crimes, rescuing important kidnapped victims, or foiling the world-conquering plots of diabolical super villains typically employed by the evil organization SPIDER (Society of Plunder, International Disorder, Espionage and Racketeering), led by The Cobra. However, unlike most spies, he mastered an Eastern mind technique that allowed him to transform his shadow into the separate entity of Spy Shadow (also Cassidy in a deeper tone). Vance usually summoned his shadowy ally to get into places he couldn’t, or to carry out the mission whenever Vance was taken out of the action by the villain. However, Spy Shadow couldn’t exist in an area devoid of light. While the Super President segment was designed to closely resemble the look of superhero comics, Spy Shadow had a different, more cartoonish look to it.

James Norcross and Jerry Sales.

            Super President debuted on NBC on September 16, 1967. Each episode featured a Spy Shadow segment sandwiched between two Super President stories. The series was the brainchild of DePatie-Freleng management. Unlike other shows they’ve pitched to networks, NBC was immediately interested and bought the concept sight-unseen. It also became the first of DePatie-Freleng’s series to utilize script writers--having previously scripted their shows during the storyboarding process--after being pressured by their union. Those writers were Tony Benedict, Don Christensen, Alan Dinehart, John W. Dunn, Edgar Furth, Jack Miller, Lee Mishkin, David Scott and Ken Sobol. Art Leonardi was the character designer and Doug Goodwin the composer.

Spy Shadow to the rescue!

To say the show was poorly received would be an understatement. The show came during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson at a time when the country had grown extremely tired of the seemingly never-ending Vietnam War. While nostalgia for the administration of John F. Kennedy may have pushed the series into quick production, memories of his assassination gave the overall concept a feeling of poor taste. Further, it came at a time when there was growing concern over the level of violence depicted in children’s television, which would completely change the Saturday morning landscape in the coming years. DePatie-Freleng was also less-than-pleased with the resulting series, calling it “the worst thing we’ve ever made.” It probably didn’t help matters that the show was scheduled right after reruns of DePatie-Freleng’s superior The Super 6, further shining a light on the poor writing and animation the series employed.

Super President character model.

The ratings were abysmal and the series was cancelled after its initial 15 episodes were produced. It remained on NBC’s schedule through 1968 until it was ultimately replaced by reruns of Top Cat. Although no merchandise was ever released for the show, a giant-size comic book was in the works. However, the comic featured references to the candidates in the upcoming election and was scrapped after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. After that, the show has largely fallen into the wastelands of history; recalled only by retrospective websites and books and those who may have seen it growing up, with very little information about it actually existing. 



EPISODE GUIDE:
The Billion Dollar Bomber / The Brain Drain Game / The Condor’s Eye” (9/16/67) - Alien B’Nark holds five cities for a billion dollars ransom each. / Vance is sent to rescue a kidnapped physicist in the Swiss Alps. / The Condor plots to kidnap and hypnotize world leaders to help him plunder the world.


“Day of the Locusts / The Kilowatt Killer Caper / Monster of the Atoll” (9/23/67) – A deranged scientist uses locusts on his nation’s food supply so that the people will support a revolution. / A scientist uses electricity to either capture or destroy an atomic submarine. / A witch doctor uses a monster to keep his influence over his tribe.

“The Great Vegetable Disintegrator / Evila the Terrible / The U.F.O. Mystery” (9/30/67) – Professor DeCordo takes Jerry hostage for ransom to complete his vegetable disintegrator. / Evilia employs a hypnosis ray to conquer the world. / Professor DeCordo returns and takes Jerry hostage in the Omnicar, which the army views as a UFO.

“King of the Sea / The Mystery Rustler Caper / Man of Steel” (10/7/67) – Zegura plans to become king of the sea by flooding the East Coast. / Vance’s vacation is interrupted to investigate the mysterious disappearance of herds of cattle. / A metal menace invades a secret weapon base and captures Jerry, prompting Super President to act.

“The Case of the Destroyer Satellite / The Egyptian Rat-Trap Flap / The Electronic Spy” (10/14/67) – A rogue satellite takes out the country’s telecommunications system. / Vance learns El Kavadar has a map that will lead him to an immense treasure. / Dr. Zak plans to use his little robot to steal weapon plans from the Government Test Center.

“The Treachery of Jerry Sales / Desert Dilemma / The Earth Robber” (10/21/67) – Count Batulla puts Jerry under his control to lure Super President to his death. / Interrupting Cobra’s slave trade leads to Vance being left tied in the burning desert. / Super President investigates the sabotage of the nation’s oil fields.

“No Time Passes / The Case of the Treacherous Tugboat / The Chameleon” (10/28/67) – Captain Tempo uses his ability to freeze time to rob Capitol City. / Tugboat Family assembles her own fleet of ships, courtesy of the navy. / The Chameleon lures Norcross into a trap and disguises himself as Super President to get into the Central Nuclear Control HQ.

“Red Ray Raider / Close Shave in Burma / A Million Years of Menace” (11/4/67) – Super President traces some missing vehicles to a flying saucer. / Vance sets out to retrieve a kidnapped prince. / An asteroid eclipse revives Starga from suspended animation and he resumes his mission to make Earth inhabitable for his people.

“The Sound of Doom / The Aurora Borealis Business / The Cosmic Gladiators” (11/11/67) – Train robberies are occurring with a sound-based weapon. / Madam Shark hijacks Vance and strands him in the Arctic during its night cycle of six months. / Super President ends up on a floating space island where its ruler demands he join the Cosmic Gladiators in destroying the universe.

“The Menace of the Moles / The Big Bounty / The Interplanetary Menace” (11/18/67) – Super President investigates when a company buys up factories that have been electronically paralyzed. / Vance ends up trapped in Cobra’s building, which Cobra sends crashing to the ground. / A demonic fireball threatens to cook the entire planet.

“Tangled Terrors / The Guns of Titicaca / Birds of Terror” (11/25/67) – Dr. Greenly Thumb seeks vengeance for Earth’s neglected plant life using a series of scientific concoctions. / Vance is sent to liberate the slaves from Baron Von Willietner’s copper mine. / Giant birds help themselves to the nation’s food supply.

“Return of the Vikings / Dead-End Express / Electronic Giant” (12/2/67) – Tempora uses his resurrection machine to bring back all the great villains of the past. / Vance is tasked with guarding cargo on a train dubbed the “dead end express”. / Dr. Three escapes from prison and turns himself into a giant to get revenge on Super President.

“Spears from Space / The Contraband Caper / Toys of Death” (12/9/67) – Earth is used as a target by two beings to determine whose weapon is better. / A wounded agent leads Vance to Cobra’s contraband ship. / General Happytime uses robot toys to destroy the government.

“The Gravity Destroyer / Bandit Gambit / The President and the Pirate” (12/16/67) – Garrar plans to clear off the Earth using anti-gravity rain. / Vance heads to a small island to depose its tyrant ruler. / Super President sets out to find a pirate galleon that’s been terrorizing the seas.

“Time Crimes / The Great Trainload of Robbers / The Ice Invader” (12/23/67) – A time machine sends Super President back to ancient Crete and the Labyrinth of Minos. / A sinister producer plans to lure Vance into his movie production in order to destroy him. / Experiments turn a penguin into a creature capable of changing the climate of the planet.

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