4/16/11

"Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" (1976)


The one thing you couldn't possibly have in your utility belt, Batman...a woman's intuition.
--Yvonne Craig as Batgirl

Few shows on television are stranger than those on the resumes of Sid and Marty Krofft.

Back in the 70s, these two brothers were the kings of schlocky television. Their first major TV job was designing the sets and the puppets for the live-action segments of Hanna-Barbera's Banana Splits Adventure Hour before finally breaking out on the Saturday morning scene in 1969 with the landmark series H.R. Pufnstuf, which would be the first of many low-budget puppet shows and special-effects-heavy spectacles over the next decade. Many people claim that the Krofft brothers were quite literally "puf'n stuf" when they came up with it, but despite what that Mr. Show sketch would have you believe, they both firmly deny any drug influence.

They are also known for producing a number of celebrity-based prime-time variety shows which were mostly hit-or-miss. While they did produce song-and-dance extravaganzas for Donny and Marie and Barbara Mandrell and her sisters with some success, they were also responsible for turning The Brady Bunch into a variety show. Then in 1980 they took NBC president Fred Silverman's newest favorite non-English speaking pop duo from Japan and produced Pink Lady and Jeff, a program that TV experts and viewers unanimously agree is one of the worst shows ever made.

I'm too young to remember watching these when they first came out, but I did watch a lot of Nick at Nite growing up, and I have come across one or more of them on several occasions. I cannot possibly think of very many things outside of the Internet that are crazier or cheesier or more fun to laugh at than a Sid and Marty Krofft production. One show of theirs I actually do have respect for is the original Land of the Lost, which comparatively speaking is very well written with an interesting premise and good use of continuity, but apart from that, they have made some of the outright CAMPIEST televisual offerings in human history.

Case in point:


In 1976, ABC Saturday morning launched The Krofft Supershow, which consisted of three Krofft series hosted by Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, a band headlined by a guy who thought it was cool to put glitter in his hair and talk like Fonzie. One of the motives behind it appeared to be to promote the new "World of Sid and Marty Krofft" indoor theme park that just opened in Atlanta (which, not unlike most Sid and Marty Krofft creations, didn't last long--it closed after six months). It was the usual Krofft fare for the time--kids running from some crazy scientist bad guy, kids who befriend genies and anthropomorphic cars, Billy Barty...I think Bigfoot was on it at one point.

If you were just entering puberty at the time, perhaps the thing you remember most was a corny little superhero saga titled Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. It only lasted for one season of the Supershow's two-season run, but out of everything that was featured on it, including the Kongs themselves, this show is perhaps the most remembered. Matter of fact, not unlike what they did with Land of the Lost in 1991, they tried to revive it with a pilot episode in 2001 which never got off the ground.

The premise is very simple: soap opera actress Dierdre Hall and average Josephine teenager Judy Strangis star as ace reporters Lori and Judy for Newsmaker magazine who wrote stories on...pretty much anything going on in town. But whenever trouble strikes, any time, anywhere in...wherever this show takes place, they hurry down to the Electrabase deep below...wherever they live and become super crimefighters Electra Woman and Dyna Girl! With the assistance of some guy named Frank Heflin (veteran actor Norman Alden) manning the highly-advanced computerized Crimescope, and since this was the era of the Parents' Television Council when you couldn't punch somebody in front of somebody else's kids, our heroines use their over-sized calculator watches--err, all-purpose Electro-Comps to thwart crime and stop the forces of evil!!

...that's pretty much it.

I bet a lot of seventh-grade boys grew up on this...in more ways than one.

You know what this show is, he asked between fits of stifled laughter? This show is an exact carbon copy of the 1966 Adam West Batman TV series. I MEAN that. It has EVERYTHING down. There's a "stately Wayne manor", there's an Alfred character, there's a Batcave, there's a Batmobile, there's a Bat-this, Bat-that, Bat-everything, there are the ridiculously costumed bad guys, there's the seemingly inescapable death trap cliffhangers...hell, the sidekicks even have catch phrases (Dyna Girl shouts "Electra _____!" at random points in each episode, similar to Robin's "Holy _____!"). The only differences between these two shows are a few cheesy video effects, a third of Batman's budget, nowhere-near-as-competent writing, and on this show, the villains's costumes are twice as ridiculous.

Seriously, you think 1960s Batman villains looked comical? Check out this show's rogues' gallery.

Meet Glitter Rock, a green-afroed evildoer who controls his victims subliminally through his rock music:


Gene Simmons had more dignity than this guy.

The Spider Lady, master of disguise:


So that's how Tiffany Bolling got her role in Kingdom of the Spiders.

And finally, the Empress of Evil, who...is...just evil.


Must have been while Barbara Gordon was going through her "goth" phase.

Apart from their questionable taste in costumes, the bad guys are pretty generic. The show only had a handful of episodes during its one-season run, so we don't get much in the villainy department between them outside of the generic "try-to-take-over-the-world" plot. Par for the course for a Krofft show, the acting is far from Shakespearean standards--Dyna Girl in particular sounds so unbelievably perky it's almost annoying. At least it's an action show, so they spare us the usual canned laughter for every non-joke.

I could pick from dozens of other things to nitpick about this show. For instance, why are Lori and Judy wearing their Electra-Comps, an IMPORTANT PIECE OF THEIR SUPERHERO COSTUMES, in broad daylight? That's like Bruce Wayne wearing Batman's utility belt in public! Anybody could glance at it and say "hey, that guy's wearing the same utility belt as Batman! You don't think..." What's the point of a secret identity if you wear part of your alter ego's costume WHERE EVERYONE CAN SEE IT!!! Also, what's the deal with Frank? The only time we ever see him is when he's manning Crimescope at the Electra-Base or showing off his latest Electra-Comp attachment which will become conveniently useful for our heroines in today's escapade. Is he supposed to be their butler? Does he LIVE down there or something? Also, we all know that Dick Grayson was Bruce Wayne's ward--how did Lori and Judy come to live together? Are they mother and daughter? Aunt and niece? Did Lori adopt Judy after her parents died? I WANT ANSWERS DAMMIT!!

Sorry, I'm rambling here. When you see as many Krofft shows as I have, you tend to ask a lot of questions.

Looks like Deep 13 before the Mads moved in.

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl tries so hard to be the women's lib version of Batman and manages to out-camp it in EVERY conceivable fashion. No big feat, considering the shoestring budget and slipshod writing with plot holes you could sail an aircraft carrier through. It's no stranger to the 1970s mentality that you could throw any child-safe idea on the screen no matter how corny and kids would park their keisters in front of the tube every Saturday morning and eat it up, commercials and all.

However, not unlike the original superhero show that's ten years its senior, it is so incredibly corny that it manages to be a lot of fun to watch and poke fun at. Anyone who thinks Adam West and Burt Ward running around with their underwear on the outside looks stupid, dig this show up and see how much worse it could have been. Have a laugh or two at it along the way.

In any case, at least it's not Lidsville. *cringe* That show will take you to some strange places.

How does a show that only lasted eight episodes get a cult following?
Well, it helps if the main characters look good in spandex.

2 comments:

Tucsoncoyote said...

Meanwhile at the Coyote Den:

Holy Frejoles Sombrero dude! This show was awesome for it's time.. I mean it had the feel of Batman but from a More liberated Side..

Sombrero Man: Claro que es bueno Coyote , pero en serio la pelĂ­cula 2001 era cojo !

Coyote; Or right.. i forot that..

Well at least Glitter Rock did run for 3 consectuive attemps to become President..

And Gene Simmonds can't run for president..

But eh, too bad that this was just a passing fad for women 's rights..

That is.. until Wonderwoman same along..

Anonymous said...

Don't hate electro woman too much. I heard that there is a remake of this show being planned. No joke!