"The Super Globetrotters" (1979)

"It was always our plan to trail at the half, thus deepening Earth's eventual humiliation. Also...what game were the refs watching?"

Return with me now to the Dark Ages of these modern times, when the infant children of cavemen more than ten years their senior were all grown up, when beloved icons from days past were reduced to traveling the world doling out PSAs, when everyone solved mysteries or were shot into space who didn't have to, and when talented men in the television industry put out crapshoot after crapshoot under the belief that their audience were so stupid they would watch anything.

Return with me now to the bland, uninspired world of 1970s animated television entertainment.

A recurring motif throughout 1970s cartoons, mystery solving and bad jokes aside, were the famous Harlem Globetrotters of basketball stardom. Their first show with Hanna-Barbera, simply titled The Harlem Globetrotters, debuted in 1970, which incidentally made them the first African-American men to appear in a TV cartoon. After twenty-two episodes, they later made three appearances on The New Scooby Doo Movies in 1972 and 1973. Six years later, they returned to the animation circuit with The Super Globetrotters, which had them become superheroes and battle supervillains.

And, of course, play basketball.

"Have none of you pathetic Earthlings game?"

Banded together from the farthest reaches of the eastern half of the United States, five of the greatest superheroes that the world of athletics-based show business has ever seen!

NATE BRANCH!! Mild-mannered former University of Nebraska basketball player becomes LIQUID MAN!! With the power to transform into any form of water!

GEESE AUSBIE!! Similarly mild-mannered all-star Division II player from Arkansas becomes MULTI MAN!! With the power to self-replicate any number of times to mystify his enemies!

TWIGGY SANDERS!! Just as mild-mannered athlete from Raleigh, North Carolina becomes SPAGHETTI MAN!! With the power to stretch and bend his noodle-like body in a number of amazing ways!

You don't suppose they...borrowed their powers from somewhere, do you?

SWEET LOU DUNBAR!! Equally mild-mannered alum of the University of Houston becomes GIZMO!! With the power to pull conveniently useful items out of his humongous afro!

CURLY NEAL!! Plucky but still mild-mannered ball handler from Charlotte, North Carolina becomes SUPERSPHERE!! With the power to...turn his head into a giant basketball.

Not unlike a certain other Hanna-Barbera cartoon I've covered on this blog, the episodes for this series follow a basic formula: the Globetrotters receive a warning from the Crimeglobe, a floating basketball with an antenna and the monotone vocal stylings and random mouth sounds of Frank Welker, that some evildoing is about to be perpetrated by some generic 1970s cartoon villain, and it's up to our fast-breaking action men to put a stop to it. So they jump into their magic lockers or something to become the SUPER GLOBETROTTERS, champions of truth, justice and zone defense!

That's pretty much all you need to know about this show, as it's a formula that carries over for thirteen episodes with little to no deviation. At least it doesn't have a annoying Pokemon-type creature that looks like a Frankenstein's monster made entirely of Beanie Babies.

What's with his head? Do they make basketball-flavored Gushers or something?

The worst part of this show by far is how most episodes climax with the villain challenging the Globetrotters to a basketball game for the fate of whatever MacGuffin is on the line in that week's episode. The five NORMAL Globetrotters are pitted against a squad of ludicrously mismatched henchmen, and in every game they obviously cheat to gain the upper hand in the first half while the heroes fail to make a single basket. At halftime, the Globetrotters regroup and get the so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea to use their superpowers to stage an amazing come-from-behind victory in the second half. The henchmen are quickly dominated, the Globetrotters win the game, and the villain is marched off to jail, promising to reform after having been shown the error of his ways.

Throughout the show it never occurs to them that they should USE THEIR FRICKING SUPERPOWERS FROM THE START OF THE GAME SINCE THEY WERE OBVIOUSLY OVERPOWERED AS THEIR NORMAL SELVES AND IT'S OBVIOUS THAT THE BAD GUY WOULD TRY AND CHEAT BECAUSE HE'S THE BAD GUY. In fact, you could spot any scene in any episode where the Globetrotters are being chased or in a scrape and they never realize that it could be easily averted if they could USE THEIR FRICKING SUPERPOWERS. How much of a superhero are you if you don't think to use your superpowers when the situation calls for it? It's like if Lois Lane's leg were trapped under an I-beam and Superman chooses to try and pull her out from under it instead of trying to lift or bend the I-beam. What good are superpowers if you never use them? Not to mention, ending every stinking episode on a basketball game which has the exact same outcome shows horrendously lazy writing. Repeating certain things show after show isn't entertaining. Kids aren't stupid. They'll know what's coming and they won't be surprised when it comes.

And the villain just...surrenders and accepts his punishment after losing the basketball game? Is that some cheesy attempt at a moral or something? Ending every stupid episode with the villain saying he's sorry and he'll never do it again not only shows lazy writing but lack of characterization. He's a bad guy! A HUMILIATED bad guy! You don't see Lex Luthor apologizing for sicking General Zod and company on everybody at the end of Superman II, do you?

What universe made shows like this? It fails as a comedy because it's not funny. It fails as an action cartoon because the action is exactly the same in each episode and after watching it you know what to expect. It fails as a superhero cartoon because of the significant lack of competence shown by its lousy writing. But most of all, it fails as entertainment not just for the above reasons, but because not unlike the aforementioned cartoon with the mangled stuffed animal, it's utterly pointless.

And the blandness would continue. One year later, the Globetrotters would return in a TV special titled...wait for it... The Harlem Globetrotters Meet Snow White.

Yeah. That tells you a lot.

"Now every superhero's going to be cracking wise about our mommas."


Gatomon41 said...

Good review, pithy and humorous.

Tucsoncoyote said...

Good Lord, the Super Globetrotters? This was about as smart a move for Hannah Barbera as it was to produce.. The Globetrotters On Gilligan's island..

OH and yesh they did rip off that other HB Show.. right down to the letter ..and it didn't help Curly Neal's carrer to become a giant talking baskeball head..

Oh well, This one gets a personal foul from me.. Denied!

AH3RD said...

Nah. First saw it on CN, and it didn't put no toot in my trumpet either. Didn't hold a candle to the 1970-73 original.

At least The Harlem Globetrotters Meet Snow White had them be themselves!

#FunFact: Freddy "Curly" Neal and Hubert "Geese" Ausbie are the only 2 Globetrotters to persevere through all of Hanna-Barbera's animated incarnations of the legendary wizards of basketball.