September 19, 2020



(CBS, September 19-November 28, 1992)
Terry’s Creations, Inc., Some Assembly Required, Inc.

Rob LaBelle – Dave
Peter Pitofsky – Bill
Sean Whalen – Aquarius
Howie Mandel – The Professor

            Harold Nathan Braunhut, also known as Harold von Braunhut, was an inventor known for his mail-order novelty products. Von Braunhut advertised his wares in the pages of comic books and were a staple of them for many years. Among his offerings were X-Ray Specs that were purported to see through clothing and skin (intriguing many prepubescent adolescents); Crazy Crabs, which were simple hermit crabs jazzed up with some purple prose; Invisible Gold Fish, which were guaranteed to remain invisible (since they weren’t actually there); and many more. One of von Braunhut’s most popular items were the Amazing Sea-Monkeys.

One of the many Sea-Monkeys ads.

            Sea-Monkeys were simple brine shrimp. Brine shrimp are typically harvested for fish food and could remain in a suspended state in dry conditions. Von Braunhut’s Sea-Monkeys came in a packet full of what looked like white powder that kids could pour into a bowl and bring the Sea-Monkeys to life. Of course, they hardly resembled the almost human-like depiction seen in the comic ads designed and illustrated by Joe Orlando. Despite the constant disappointment of what arrived when kids received their Sea-Monkeys, that hasn’t stopped the tiny creatures from getting a devoted fanbase.

The Professor explaining one of his biological experiments.

            One owner of Sea-Monkeys was comedian Howie Mandel. One of his daughters followed in his footsteps, requesting the tiny creatures since all her friends had them as well. Suddenly, an idea for a TV show centered around Sea-Monkeys came to him, imagining it to have the potential to be bigger than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mandel was able to sell the idea to CBS based on the success FOX was enjoying with his previous series, Bobby’s World. Mandell teamed up with the Chiodo Brothers to create the make-up effects for the Sea Monkeys based on Orlando’s drawings, as well as the variety of special effects that would be employed to turn it into a live-action cartoon.

The Sea Monkeys: Bill, Dave and Aquarius.

            Mandel played The Professor, a mad scientist who lived and worked in his lighthouse lab complete with stereotypical German accent. During one of his experiments, he enlarged three Sea-Monkey brothers—Dave (Rob LaBelle), Bill (Peter Pitofsky) and Aquarius (Sean Whalen)—who ended up becoming his roommates and assistants. Their misadventures were usually caused by their general ineptitude, and the fact that The Professor often left them alone and unsupervised (ironic since that was a lesson utilized in the first episode). Their best friend was Sheila Brentwood (Eliza Schneider), who was also their next-door neighbor and lived with her uptight parents (Jim Jansen & Patch Mackenzie). She liked to hang out with the Sea-Monkeys because their uniqueness countered her parents’ stuffiness, and possibly because her parents didn’t really care for them. The Sea-Monkeys also had the unique ability to project water from their fingers.

Sheila visiting to escape her parents.

            The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys debuted on CBS on September 19, 1992. It was developed by Bradley Kesden and Skip Shepard, who also served as story editors and episode writers. Other writers included Melvin Barenboim, Jennifer Feucht, Tug Barnes, Dan Clark, Mary Ghiorsi, Scott Sedita, Terry Vennuzzi and Michael Davis. Chuck Cirino, Inc. provided the music. The series utilized a blend of slapstick and absurd humor. Typical stories featured The Professor heading off to some kind of function outside of the lighthouse after doing something to set the events of the story in motion, and The Sea-Monkeys ended up causing a mess they had to somehow clean-up before he got home. The Sea-Monkeys would often break the fourth wall, morph their heads into other people/creatures, zip off-screen to return with a random item for a gag, or perform a split-second quick change. There would also be the occasional genre or pop culture parody.

Aquarius imagining himself as a spy, ala James Bond.

            Unfortunately, Mandel’s predication of the Sea-Monkeys becoming bigger than the Ninja Turtles was way off the mark. The show performed abysmally in the ratings, failing to justify the hefty price tag the special effects were incurring (well over the proposed amount). CBS cancelled the series after just 11 episodes. It remained on CBS’ schedule for the remainder of the season. Interestingly enough, it ended up being replaced by another series starring Schneider: Beakman’s World.
“Octopotomus R’ Usamus” (9/19/92) – When the Sea Monkeys hydrate one of The Professor’s animal experiments as a pet for Aquarius, it ends up causing trouble at the Brentwoods.
“Lighthouse Alone” (9/26/92) – When Dave and Aquarius won’t let Bill help them with their alarm system, he decides to repeatedly trick them into thinking crooks are around.
“Swampthingamajig” (10/3/92) – Dave gets a swelled head when he’s bitten by the acting bug after he’s asked to substitute for a movie’s “monster”.
“Look, Don’t Touch” (10/10/92) – The Sea Monkeys need jobs to make enough money to replace a device they broke and end up working at the Brentwood’s vow renewal ceremony.
“Sea Monkey of Love” (10/17/92) – Dave and Aquarius try to help Bill get through the date he ends up with when he calls a dating service.
“Wrestlemania” (10/24/92) – Bill inadvertently challenges a professional wrestler to a match.
“Haunted Lighthouse” (10/31/92) – A group of thieves use costumes and trickery to scare off the Sea Monkeys and search the lighthouse for buried treasure.
“Scout’s Honor” (11/7/92) – The Professor encourages the Sea Monkeys to join some kind of club, and they decide to join Mr. Brentwood’s Moose Scout troop.
“Top Secret” (11/14/92) – An old school rival of The Professor uses Aquarius’ love of spy stuff to get into the lighthouse and attempt to steal The Professor’s latest invention.
“Talent Show” (11/21/92) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Teacher’s Pests” (11/28/92) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

No comments: