Where Spice Girls Meet Ghostbusters
Although Josie and the Pussy Cats is based on an Archie Comics series, you’d never guess such prestigious animated roots from watching this annoying cartoon. Instead, viewing this Saturday morning cartoon will convince you that it is little more than a lazy Scooby-Doo knock-off, and a bad one at that.
Granted, Scooby-Doo is an extremely predictable program. Everybody laughs about how each Scooby-Doo episode revolves around a monster of some kind, yet there are never any real monsters. Even so, with all its predictability, the show makers at least got the format right. Josie and friends do not even have a likeable formula.
Comparing these two shows is valid because there are many similarities between Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussy Cats. Whereas Scooby-Doo has its conversational woofer, Scooby, Josie and the Pussy Cats has a cat named Sebastian. Also, the Casey Kasem voiced Alan character is almost exactly like Shaggy on Scooby-Doo albeit, he’s at least a little bit cooler here.
Josie and the Pussy Cats also deals with fighting crime, but in this case, the trials and tribulations of an all-girl rock band are entered into that equation. It’s worth noting that 1970 predates bands like The Go-Go’s and The Bangles, so while there were all-girl bands at the time of Josie and the Pussycats, few went toe-to-toe and riff-for-riff with the dudes. This meant there were minimal legitimate role models, animated or otherwise, and made this trio of feminine rockers stand out from the Saturday morning pack.
But TV shows with rock bands were all the rage then. Don’t forget The Monkees and The Partridge Family in prime time. Even Fat Albert featured songs with appropriate morals at the end of each episode. And while music was essential to the Josie series, it produced no bubble gum hit records. The Archies, on the other hand, had a smash with “Sugar Sugar”.
There is also a subtle feminist angle involved. These are not just female musicians, but also crime fighters in a male-dominated world. Furthermore, this is an interracial group of bad-guy-chasing musicians. Valerie, the group’s tambourine player, is black. Valerie is usually the voice of reason among the gang, and while she doesn’t have many lines, she usually comes off as smart and centered.
The band’s other members consist of Josie, the redheaded leader/guitarist, and Melody, the not-so-bright drummer. While Josie is bold and confident, the blond-haired Melody is the butt of many jokes. For example, when someone asks Melody what a gargoyle is, she wrongly describes it as what you do with mouthwash to freshen your breath. Along with the band, cast regulars include Josie’s boyfriend and band roadie, Alan, their manager Alexander, and Alexander’s sister, Alexandra, who tries at every turn to get into the band.
If only these cartoon episodes could live up to their titles. They make you wonder if more time was spent on these titles then the actual content. It’s hard not to laugh at “Plateau of the Apes Plot”, the homage to the popular Planet of of the Apes of the same era. There are also pop culture connections associated with “Strange Moon over Miami”, “The Great Pussycat Chase”, and “A Green thumb is not a Goldfinger”. Some of these titles are relatively witty all on their own, as is the case with “Never Mind a Master Mind”. In other cases, show names are corny, exemplified by “Chili Today and Hot Tamale”. As for the plots themselves, these shows usually begin with the band headed out for some exotic concert date. But the group eventually either gets diverted to a different destination altogether, or finds trouble in every place they go.
Kids today would never fall for this show’s simplistic and unrealistic portrayal of crime. Bad guys are rarely this obvious nowadays, and much of the time, even good guys can sometimes be somewhat bad. Also, this rock band with its leopard skin-outfitted musicians is little more than three animated sex objects. And really, is that necessary? The group makes me think of the Spice Girls without the girl power chants.
Josie and the Pussycats has historical value as a typical Hanna-Barbera product from the ‘70s. But it doesn’t hold up well under modern scrutiny.