Reviews

The Ultimate Underdog Collection Volume 1

This was a special program that had all the adventure of a superhero program, without the kind of violent action that would scare a young child.


The Ultimate Underdog Collection Volume 1

Distributor: Classic Media
Cast: Wally Cox, Norma MacMillan, Kenny Delmar, Ben Stone, Sandy Becker
Network: CBS
First date: 1964
US Release Date: 2007-07-24
Last date: 1973
Amazon

It’s impossible not to love Underdog. Like Superman, he’s an Average Joe, "Shoeshine" by day. At least, that is, until trouble comes along. But he doesn’t just morph into a superhero, equipped with requisite cool uniform and super powers. He’s also a cute little dog who spoke in rhymes. Now Superman, or any other superhero for that matter, cannot make that claim!

The program’s animation is a lot like Rocky & Bullwinkle. But while that show also had a layer of adult-directed humor, The Underdog Show was completely innocent. If you recall, Underdog, voiced meekly by Wally Cox, was always coming to Sweet Polly Purebread’s rescue. His nemesis was usually Simon Bar-Sinister or Riff-Raff, and both of these bad guys featured the voice talent of Allen Swift. All throughout, George S. Irving provided narration. Iriving gave these episodes a special voicing; he spoke in a troubled tone that made him come off as one of us, rooting for Underdog.

This single disc compilation includes two episodes and one bonus program. The first one is called “The Big Dipper”, where Simon Bar-Sinister devises a machine called The Big Dipper with which to dry up all the water in the world. The second episode is titled “The Gold Bricks”. This one involves the transfer of valuable gold bricks, where Underdog is chosen to drive the armored car. He’s the right one for the job because, remember, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here.” In this program, Riff-Raff attempts to steal this gold. But, of course, he fails.

The bonus episode is titled “Fearo”. In it, a TV executive puts Sweet Polly Purebread in grave danger by asking her to star in a TV show with a monster named Fearo. Can you guess who comes to save her?

Along with Underdog’s adventures, which are always broken into four parts, this show also interspersed cartoons with other characters. One segment, The Go Go Gophers, doesn’t stand up particularly well today. It followed the crazy antics of two stereotyped Indians. But instead of treating Native Americans with the dignity they deserve, this cartoon played upon clichéd speech patterns and behaviors.

A better Underdog cartoon mate is Tennessee Tuxedo. Tennessee, voiced wonderfully by Don Adams, is assisted by the dopy Chumley, played by Bradley Bolke. In one story, called “Wish Wash”, Tennessee steals the wood intended for a new tool shed and builds a washing machine for his budding laundry business, instead. He learns how to build this contraption by consulting with scientist Mr. Whoopie. Whoopie advises them to construct a windmill, which provides the device’s power.

Another added series is “The World of Commander McBragg”, a regular segment where an older man tells of his amazing, albeit unbelievable, youthful adventures. On this disc he recalls his Indianapolis Speedway experiences. There’s also Klondike Kat, who in an episode titled “Gravy Train” must keep a mouse named Savoir Faire from stealing the roast beef he is transporting. But he quickly learns that this mouse’s slogan always holds true. “Savoir Faire is everywhere.”

This particular disc also includes a few special features. One is an interview with co-creator, Joe Harris. But if you really like Underdog, please skip the Harris interview. He’s just so dull! He talks in a monotone voice and sounds bored, rather than excited, about his creation. The other bonus feature lists the show’s family of characters.

In addition to its other memorable characteristics, let’s not forget Underdog’s great theme song. With those fighting words, “Speed of lightning, roar of thunder,” each program kicked off with a bang. Also in the opening intro, Irving introduced Underdog by saying, “Starring that champion of champions,” which gave me goose bumps as a child. I still get a little excited now, even though I’m well aware this is just a cartoon.

But of course, it wasn’t “just a cartoon.” This was a special program that had all the adventure of a superhero program, without the kind of violent action that would scare a young child. It’s always reassuring to hear Underdog announce, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here.” Even today.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image