When people think of Hanna Barbera, most cull up memories of Jonny Quest and Huckleberry Hound, The Flinstones and The Jetsons. These were shows that defined a generation, and still remain enjoyable today.
How about The Super Globetrotters? Or Samson and Goliath? Or Partridge Family 2200 AD? Or Hanna Barbera’s fascinating “revival” of Godzilla? Do you remember these? No? Good. And if you do, I’m sorry. The nurses will be coming in with your “stop the loud mind screams” pills in a bit.
For a series of four articles, I will be studying the four cartoons listed above, and by studying I mean biased’ly mocking. However, I’ve done my research on these shows so don’t consider me going in blind. My scientific method of these shows was made up of 6 steps. They are as follows:
Step 1: Wikipedia
Step 2: Watch/Laugh
Step 3: Why?
Step 4: Man up, watch more.
Step 5: Oh god/sobbing
Step 6: Finish series/more sobbing.
Now, without further ado, I bring our first series, THE SUPER GLOBETROTTERS!
The great thing about cartoons in the ‘70s was that it proved that, with enough work and people who didn’t quite understand what they were working for, you could make an animated show out of anything. This “anything” included a cartoon about a fake basketball team that can’t play basketball that well in real life and also fights crime.
The Super Globetrotters was a show created under the assumption, that, while watching The Harlem Globetrotters spin basketballs and work non-competitively as a cartoon was not fun and all, watching them fight crime while still spinning basketballs and working non-competitively would be so much more not fun. Hell, it’d be so mindlessly unentertaining that an entire demographic would cling to it. And cling they didn’t. The Super Globetrotters lasted 13 episodes, a single season before the networks decided that the hand drawn equivalent of Chinese water torture was perhaps too much for children to handle.
This was a five man team, more than enough, considering the quality of villains they were up against. They probably could have had the same amount of success if they had paid a few homeless black men to pose as them and fight crime for them.
Nate Branch/Liquid Man: Nate could turn into water, which is a power that constantly defies physics whenever it is put into play. He also had the worst costume, wearing a pool float around his waste. This says a lot, considering the costumes of the rest of the team almost assured that, when not fighting crime, they were getting mercilessly pummeled by strangers.
Freddie Neal/Super Sphere: Freddie could turn into a basketball and crash into shit. Sadly, when not a basketball, Freddie still maintained a huge, malformed basketball head. This meant that, after fighting crime, when the team was out not getting laid, Freddie would be even more not getting laid.
James Sanders/Spaghetti Man: James could use his body as a ladder or a rope, which meant that, unless someone needed to be tied up or crime was happening on the second floor, James was effectively useless.
Louis Dunbar/Gizmo: Louis had a ridiculously large afro, which he kept numerous gadgets in. I’m sure he was the most useful guy on the team, despite the fact that his power sounds like something a racist who’s only had black people described to him would make up.
Hubert Ausbie/Multi Man: Could clone himself, which means he had the powers to make other people look idiotic for three seconds before they realized they could just beat his ass a few times more.
The Opening: Somehow, the producers of this show decided that the best way to promote it in the first minute was to make it seem as boring as possible. This includes twenty seconds of the cartoon globetrotters dancing and playing with basketballs, failing miserably at both and then getting shot with a laser from a basketball satellite called “Crimeglobe.” After running into lockers and bouncing around, they come out as The Super Globetrotters. They then proceed to scrimmage amongst themselves, and humiliate Freddie. Villains appear but all James has to do is wrap around them and put them on the top of a tall building. They then dance a bit more and the title card appears. In short, the opening is the equivalent of watching your friend’s dad get drunk, try to play basketball, fall and then slap your friend out of misplaced rage.
The show itself: Exactly what you’d expect. Facing villains like “Museum Man” and “The Facelift” proved exceedingly difficult for our heroes, as they constantly lost fights that were purely super power vs super power. Actually, they lost every fight like that. The Super Globetrotters seemed to forget that a key in fighting crime is knowing how to use your powers. Instead, they’d spend most of the fight bumping into each other, or becoming ensnared with each other, mostly thanks to Freddie, who’s bouncing into enemies abilities was only matched by his bouncing into walls and then into his own teammates abilities. Each fight would end with the Super Globetrotters in a pile of each other, wondering how they possibly could have lost, but keeping a level of optimism usually reserved for robots trying to fake human nature.
The writers of this show must have received only two orders, 1. Lame and 2. Basketball. (This is an improvement over the orders given to the cartoonists, who were simply given blindfolds). Every episode ended in a basketball game of some sort against the foes, which the Super Globetrotters would inevitably win, which proves that, even in fake cartoon life, being able to play basketball with excessive mediocrity is better than having magic powers.
Necessary: Not at all. The most interesting thing about the Super Globetrotters is that there was already a Harlem Globetrotters animated show, one where they did normal things with their less than normal skills. That means there was a point in Hanna Barbera history where an executive was watching “The Harlem Globetrotters,” became amazed, stood up and screamed “We need more!” and was promptly struck down by God in a lightning plague of stupid.
Legacy: Sadly, the trend of creating shows based around not-sports that masqueraded unsuccessfully as sports didn’t catch on. That means that the U.S. Jump Rope team never got their claymation program where they fought mutants, and The National Bird Whistlers Association’s “time travel” show never made it past concept stages.