Wednesday, July 21, 2010

View-Master: DR. SHRINKER and WONDERBUG



After finding success with psychedelic live-action Saturday morning kid’s shows like H.R. PUFNSTUFF, LIDSVILLE and THE BUGALOOS and a prime time variety show starring Donny & Marie Osmond, producers Sid & Marty Krofft combined the two formats and came up with THE KROFFT SUPER SHOW (1976-1978, ABC). A children’s variety hour hosted by the fictitious (and irritating) bubblegum rock band Kaptain Kool & the Kongs, this “super” show consisted of several 15-minute live-action programs that were threadbare even by Krofft standards and probably wouldn’t have flown on their own in a 30-minute timeslot. Our favorite was WONDERBUG, a dime store cross between Disney’s THE LOVE BUG and Hanna-Barbera’s SPEED BUGGY that managed to make those trashy SUPERBUG movies from West Germany look like David Lean productions by comparison. Schlep Car, a junky dune buggy with a mind of its own, is rescued from the scrap heap by three bell-bottomed young people who discover a magic horn that transforms the sputtering Frank Welker-voiced wreck into a glistening candy apple red crime fighting machine with rolling headlight eyes and the ability to fly. If this show is remembered at all today, it's because one of the stars is the late John Anthony Bailey, who played Ritchie’s friend Sticks on HAPPY DAYS before a cringe-inducing career in '80s shot-on-video porn under the name "Jack Baker."

While WONDERBUG accounts for two of the three reels in this View-Master packet, the third is dedicated to DR. SHRINKER, the lamest of the three Krofft "super" segments. A trio of young people crash-lands their airplane on a remote island where the titular mad scientist (played by Hollywood's favorite Caligula, Jay Robinson) and his assistant Hugo (Billy Barty) are experimenting with the doc's latest and greatest scientific advancement, a shrink-ray, which they plan to sell to any nation that will shell out the exorbitant asking price. Predictably, the three youths are shrunk to 6 inches in height and spend the rest of the show's one-season run (16 nearly identical 15-minute episodes) trying to return themselves to normal size while repeatedly escaping the evil - and hammy - clutches of Shrinker and Hugo. Evidently we weren't the only kids unimpressed by DR. SHRINKER, because it was dropped from the show at the start of the second season (along with ELECTRA WOMAN AND DYNA GIRL) to accommodate two equally crappy segments, BIGFOOT AND WILDBOY and MAGIC MONGO. We still tuned in for WONDERBUG but otherwise had little interest in Krofft's increasingly flimsy offerings. Kaptain Kool & the Kongs were replaced by the Bay City Rollers for the third season, when the show moved to NBC and was re-titled THE KROFFT SUPERSTAR HOUR. One of the awful new segments, LOST ISLAND, actually brought back Robinson and Barty in their Shrinker and Hugo roles, only this time they were known as "Dr. Deathray" and "Otto" and instead of the miniaturization gimmick the segment offered lots of nonsensical guest appearances by Pufnstuff, Sigmund the Sea Monster and other slumming Krofft characters. We clearly remember turning off the first episode in disgust shortly after the halfway mark, pretty much forgetting about Sid & Marty from that point on, and therefore had no idea until we read the Wikipedia entry a few minutes ago that LOST ISLAND was killed after 8 episodes so the "Superstar Hour" could be shortened to 30 minutes and renamed THE BAY CITY ROLLERS SHOW! That format apparently lasted for only 5 episodes before the show was axed altogether. The Krofft name wasn't seen on Saturday mornings again until 5 years later, when they tried to turn Richard Pryor into a kiddie show star (!) with PRYOR'S PLACE.

It's been a while since we did one of these View-Master posts, and unfortunately we still haven't figured out how to share the eye-popping 3-D images with all of you. However, the booklet that was issued with the pack has been scanned for your amusement. Enjoy.
















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