June 16, 2018


(ABC, September 11-December 18, 1976)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Don Messick – Lt. Mumbly, Lt. Nuts and Bolts, various
John Stephenson – Chief Shnooker, various

            He was an unassuming detective in a frumpy trench coat and a shoddy little car that seemed almost unable to find the loose change in your couch, let alone solve a crime. And yet, somehow, he always got his man.

Mumbly in his jalopy.

            If those of you old enough to know thought that was describing Columbo, a series starring Peter Falk as the title character, you’d be half right. In 1976, Hanna-Barbera took inspiration from the mystery series to create a “new” character: Mumbly (Don Messick). Why “new”? Because Mumbly was a redressing of the previously-existing character, Muttley (also Messick). Hanna-Barbera wanted to use him again, but because he and his owner, Dick Dastardly (Paul Winchell), were co-owned by Heatter-Quigley Productions in a deal for an intended game show, Hanna-Barbera wasn’t free to use them as regularly as their other characters. So, they changed Muttley’s fur, gave him a coat and a car that lost pieces as it drove, and Mumbly was born.

Mumbly and Shnooker enjoying some downtime.

            The Mumbly Cartoon Show debuted on ABC on September 11, 1976 as part of the package show Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show alongside reruns of The New Tom & Jerry Show and The Grape Ape Show, and then the reduced Tom & Jerry/Mumbly Show after Grape Ape was broken off into its own show. The series followed Mumbly as he was tasked by his boss, Chief Shnooker (John Stephenson), with solving impossible crimes—often at the threat of losing his job—that Shnooker was either too frightened or couldn’t be bothered to do. Of course, Shnooker didn’t hesitate when it came to taking the credit for closing the case. One of the running gags featured a criminal who could run off absolutely anywhere in the world only to find Mumbly already there and waiting to arrest them. The series was written by Bill Ackerman, Larz Bourne, Tom Dagenais, Alan Dinehart, Don Jurwich, Joel Kane, Dick Kinney, Frank Ridgeway, with music by Hoyt Curtin.

Mumbly getting the drop on a giant lumberjack.

            Mumbly only ran for a single season, continuing on in reruns through the early part of 1977. While it aired primarily on Saturday morning, “The Fatbeard the Pirate Fracas” aired as part of ABC’s Thanksgiving Funshine Festival on Thanksgiving Day. Hanna-Barbera decided to recycle Mumbly further by including him as one of the villains, the Really Rottens, in Laff-A-Lympics; teamed-up with The Dread Baron (Stephenson) who was a pastiche for Dastardly. Following the end of that series, Mumbly disappeared into relative obscurity; only appearing again as part of a clip segment in ABC’s 1983 Saturday Morning Preview Special

“Fleetfeet Versus Flat Foot” (9/11/76) – A speedy thief tips Shnooker off to his intended theft.

“The Great Hot Car Heist” (9/18/76) – Mumbly is assigned to retrieve a new top-secret police vehicle that ends up being stolen.

“The Magical Madcap Caper” (9/25/76) – Mumly and Shnooker guard the valuables in a mansion where a suspicious magician is performing.

“The Big Breakout Bust” (10/2/76) – Mumbly is ordered to retrieve an escaped prisoner in 24 hours or lose his job.

“The Return of Bing Bong” (10/9/76) – Mumbly is tasked with ending the rampage of an 80-foot gorilla in the city.

“The Super-Dooper Super Cop” (10/16/76) – Mumbly is forced to compete for his job against a robot detective while also capturing a slippery cat burglar.

“The Big Ox Bust” (10/23/76) – Mumbly and Shnooker take a trip to Canada just as a giant lumberjack is terrorizing the forest.

“The Great Graffiti Gambit” (10/30/76) – Mumbly is put on the trail of a graffiti artist who has defaced half the city.

“Taking Stock” (11/6/76) – A prize-winning bull is taken, setting Mumbly on the trail of The Lonesome Rustler.

“The Littermugg” (11/13/76) – Shnooker’s TV interview is interrupted by a sudden deluge of litter, courtesy of The Littermugg.

“The Perils of the Purple Baron” (11/20/76) – The Purple Baron freezes everyone in the city in order to rob them, except Mumbly remains unaffected and is hot on his case.

“The Fatbeard the Pirate Fracas” (11/25/76) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Big Snow Foot Snow Job” (11/27/76) – Shnooker’s ski vacation is spoiled by the sudden appearance of a creature scaring everyone away from the lodge.

“Sherlock’s Badder Brudder” (12/4/76) – Two criminals have it out for Mumbly and Shnooker and try everything to get rid of Mumbly.

“The UFO’s a No-No” (12/11/76) – Aliens arrive to invade Earth, and Shnooker tasks Mumbly with giving them a parking ticket and collecting the fine.

“Hyde and Seek” (12/18/76) – Mumbly investigates a disturbance at Dr. Seek’s lab where he discovers Dr. Seek’s new soda formula turns him into the insidious Mr. Hyde.


warren d. scott said...

I think the game show referred to was actually "Wacky Races," an animated show Hanna-Barbera co-produced with Heatter-Quigley. The two companies also produced "Dastardly and Mutley and Their Flying Machines" and "The Perils of Pauline Pitstop." Thanks for the fun overview of "The Mumbly Show," though.

Chris Buchner said...

I could never find what EXACTLY that intended game show was meant to be. Just that the characters existed FOR it and--that's it.