By the time the 1980s rolled around,
the American video game market was booming. Arcades were experiencing a Golden
with rapid advancement in technology and growing cultural impact beginning with
the release of Space
Invaders in 1978. Likewise, home
consoles were entering their second
generation thanks to the affordability of new microprocessor
technology, with the Atari
leading the charge. This resulted in a combined revenue of $11.8 billion for
the video game industry by 1982.
|Hanging out at the arcade.
Television and studio executives
were not ones to let a popular trend go by without finding a way to capitalize
on it. ABC
struck first: adapting the highly successful arcade game Pac-Man into
a hit animated series. TBS
was next with a game show that utilized arcade games, Starcade. CBS, looking to compete,
decided to hedge their bets by not just licensing one hit game, but several from
both the arcades and home consoles.
|The stars of Supercade: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Q*bert, Pitfall Harry and Frogger.
Among the chosen properties was the
game that saved Nintendo
of America from bankruptcy, Donkey
Kong, and its sequel, Donkey
Kong Jr.; Gottlieb’s
most successful game, Q*bert;
home console smash, Pitfall! These
five entries were combined under the banner Saturday Supercade where
they would air four segments over the course of an hour every Saturday (Q*bert
and Pitfall! would alternate weeks). Naturally, as video games at
the time were a bit limited in their story and presentation, some liberties
were taken in adapting them for the small screen; such as making Frogger (Bob
Sarlatte) an investigative reporter or setting Q*bert in a pastiche of
the 1950s in a town dominated by cube shapes.
|Character models for Donkey Kong's Pauline and Mario.
Saturday Supercade debuted on
CBS on September 17, 1983. The series was produced by former Hanna-Barbera
Spears through their company, Ruby-Spears Productions.
Despite sharing screen time in the intro and during commercial bumpers, and
that both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. were set in the same
universe, none of the shows or characters crossed over or interacted with each
Maurer served as story editors, while Haim Saban
and Shuky Levi
composed the series’ theme. Dean Elliott
handled the rest of the series’ music.
Supercade was renewed for a
second season; however, there were some changes. Donkey Kong Jr., Frogger and
Pitfall! were dropped from the line-up. In their place came Sun Electronics’
(aka Sunsoft) hit arcade Kangaroo,
the second game from notable Disney
Ace. Richard Merwin,
Villaire served as story editors this season. CBS also
expanded their video game offerings with a series based on the racing game Pole
Position, but as it was by DiC Entertainment
it was kept separate from Supercade. Supercade continued on until
December of 1984, and then left the airwaves forever.
|Article published during Atari's decline.
of the contributing factors to its cancellation was that it was unable to
compete with the powerhouse Smurfs over on NBC. The other factor was
that during the show’s production, the video game industry was hit by the crash
of 1983: too many consoles, too many similar games of
questionable quality through the establishment of third-party publishers, plus
the rise of the home computer meant that there was a lot more product than
consumers. Arcades fared no better as there really hadn’t been any major
innovation in game design and they were blamed for instances of delinquency in
their vicinity. Video games had lost their luster for Americans and wouldn’t
begin to rebound until Nintendo
imported their revamped Famicom as the Nintendo
Entertainment System in 1986. The console wars began anew when
entered the fray, challenging the 8-bit Nintendo console with its high-speed
With this new era in gaming came new attempts to adapt them for the screen, but
those are stories told in their own entries.
|A revived console war meant a new lease on life for video games--and new shows based on them.
Because Sony owned Q*bert through
Pictures’ previous ownership of Gottlieb, it remains the only
entry in Supercade to have seen a home video release. The
Best of Q*bert came out in 2015 to
coincide with the release of their film Pixels,
featured the character. Warner
Archive announced via their Facebook page
in 2010 that plans were underway to release Supercade
to DVD since they currently own the Ruby-Spears library, but because of
rights issues with the various game properties the project needed extensive
research before it could happen. Segments from Space Ace have appeared
as filler between programs on Boomerang
but otherwise the various segments have only become viewable through recorded
uploads on sites like YouTube.