February 18, 2023



(CBS, September 7, 1974-August 30, 1975)
Funhouse Productions Inc., Viacom Productions


Meadowlark Lemon – Himself, various
Freddie “Curly” Neal – Himself, various
Marques Haynes – Himself, various
Charles “Tex” Harrison – Himself, various
Hubert “Geese” Ausbie – Himself, various
Nate Branch – Himself, various
Theodis “Wolfman” Lee – Himself, various
John Smith – Himself, various
Bobby Joe “B.J.” Mason – Himself, various
Rodney Allen Rippy – Himself
Avery Schreiber – Mr. Evil
John Aylesworth – Announcer


            In 1970, CBS executive Fred Silverman decided he wanted to try and lure the fans of The Harlem Globetrotters over to his network by giving them their own show. Harlem Globetrotters became the first series to feature characters based on actual sports stars and a predominantly African-American cast. It ran for two seasons. That wasn’t the end of the Globetrotters’ TV career, however, as shortly after CBS gave them another program.

Publicity still of the Globetrotters with Schreiber's Mr. Evil.

            The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine was a live-action comedy variety show created by John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt, this time starring the actual Globetrotters: Meadowlark Lemon, Freddie “Curly” Neal, Marques Haynes, Charles “Tex” Harrison, Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, Nate Branch, Theodis “Wolfman” Lee, John Smith and Bobby Joe Mason. While they sometimes wore their signature uniforms, their primary outfits were matching ones that had their names written on their chests. Episodes began with Tex calling out to the audience for a letter, which one of the other Globetrotters would stand and hold up on a card as the audience full of kids repeated it. The resulting word spelled out would set the theme of the day that everything centered around, such as “pollute” for pollution and “brother” for brotherhood. What followed were short skits with the Globetrotters engaging in various activities or playing characters, quickfire gags, song numbers and, of course, basketball exhibitions. They would repeat the letters bit at the end, but always spelling out the phrase “so long”. Joining the Globetrotters every week was Avery Schreiber as the comical Mr. Evil, the antagonist who would try to hamper their pro-social message and embodied the antithesis of it, and Rodney Allen Rippy to add a relatable character for the kids watching. Guest stars would also appear from time to time, such as  Tom Bosley, Jim Backus, Esther Rolle and Teresa Graves.

The Globetrotters performing on their primary stage with Teresa Graves.

       Following an hour-long prime-time pilot that aired on December 13, 1972, The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine was picked up for Saturday mornings, debuting on September 7, 1974. It was one of the first series produced for Viacom Productions. The series’ name was emphasized by the recurring graphic of basketballs bouncing around in a container reminiscent of a popcorn machine popping. Aylesworth, serving as the show’s announcer, introduced Rippy, Schreiber and the episode’s guest star. The Globetrotters themselves would appear on a stage full of colorful lighted backboards and rims to introduce themselves while “passing” around a basketball that would have their name on it (these were, of course, different balls and the passing was done through creative editing). The series was written by Aylesworth, Peppiatt and Jack Burns, with music by Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson.

The Globetrotters' 1975 Yearbook.

         The Globetrotters featured information about Popcorn Machine in their 1975 Yearbook. Unlike their animated endeavor,  Popcorn Machine only lasted for a single season. It did, however, continue on for an additional season of reruns well into 1976. Silverman wasn’t quite ready to give up on the Globetrotters’ television careers just yet. In 1979, he brought the team over to NBC with him in another Hanna-Barbera cartoon: The Super Globetrotters.


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