Tag Archives: K.I.T.T.

Filling a gap in my pop culture past…

There are a million reasons why I’m thankful for being brought into this world in the late seventies, but the one that I’ve been focusing on lately is that I feel a very deep appreciation for my luck in experiencing what the world has been like before and after the internet. I do my best to not take the wonderland of the World Wide Web for granted, and I consistently marvel at the level of access we have to information, even if it seems banal and trivial on the surface. With the tools, databases and connections at hand we can use these resources to practically break through the implausibility of a concept like time travel and experience things that should be long gone and forgotten. I spend the majority of my time here at Branded writing and talking about all the stuff from my childhood that I hold dear in particular my personal experiences with the shows, movies, books, toys and pop culture ephemera that I grew up loving. Today I want to talk about something I completely missed out on, something that I only discovered after starting this site almost a decade ago, the Saturday morning entertainment showcase specials that were broadcast by the major TV stations back in the 80s.

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Growing up I never really had a say in what the family would watch on TV. I know, everyone is crying me a river, right? Honestly, it’s not a complaint; I had food, shelter, and more than my fair share of toys and entertainment, but when it came to TV there were only a few windows when I had access to controlling the dial (and much later the remote), especially as soon as my father would come home from work. As soon as he got in the door he immediately changed the station from the afternoon cartoons I might be watching on the UHF channels to whatever station would have local news. So if that meant suffering through syndicated reruns of Alice or the Jefferson’s for the billionth time so that the channel would be tuned in to the news as soon as it started, that’s what we watched. Then it was the local news, then national news, then Entertainment Tonight, and finally onto whatever stuff caught my dad’s interest for the rest of the evening. My TV time was mostly regulated to 30 minutes in the morning before school (where I caught old Our Gang and Three Stooges shorts or the odd episode of Woody Woodpecker or Chilly Willy), an hour after school (where I caught most of my syndicated cartoons like He-Man, G.I. Joe, Bravestarr and the Silverhawks), and a couple hours on Saturday morning for cartoons. Because of this I never tended to flip through the actual programming portion (the B&W newsprint part) of our copies of the TV Guide and therefore I never stumbled across any of the advertisements for the one-off showcase specials that aired during the kickoff of the new network lineup in fall.

So at 8:30pm on Saturday the 8th of September in 1984 I had no idea that there was a 30-minute special called Laugh Busters airing on NBC. In fact I didn’t even learn that it existed until about five years ago when I broke down the 1984 Fall Preview issue of the TV Guide here at Branded. At the time it was a bit of a curiosity that I wished I could explore further but there was nothing online about it except for a glorified placeholder entry on IMDB.

IMDB Laugh Busters

Well, a few years went by and Laugh Busters slipped to the back of my mind as one of those oddities, a hole in my childhood experience that I wished I could fill but knew I’d probably never get a chance to see as something like that would never merit a DVD release (way too many licenses and clearances would be needed.) But, as I stated above, the internet and all its connections are pretty damn miraculous and my buddy Tim over at Flashlights Are Something to Eat had his own Laugh Busters journey going on. Unlike me, Tim had actually seen the original broadcast as a kid and even had the presence of mind to tape the audio on a blank cassette! He did a short synopsis/write-up on his site but was still yearning to re-watch the full special, so he kept up his search and a couple of years later he finally found one of his childhood holy grails, an old VHS copy that had been ripped to DVD. Tim, being the super awesome guy that he is, offered to let me borrow his copy and finally, 30 years after it originally aired, I was able to experience a small part of 1984 that I thought was lost to time. As a bonus the copy of the special was complete with the commercials that originally aired with it, so this was as close to time travel that the internet has made possible.

Laugh Busters

As I mentioned above, Laugh Busters was a Saturday Morning showcase special which was designed to sell the kids of America on NBC’s new line-up of shows, particularly because half of the schedule was brand new for 1984. Here’s a copy of the SMC comic book ad for NBC from which introduced 4 new shows including Kidd Video, Pink Panther and Sons, the Snorks and the live action sitcom Going Bananas starring JR the orangutan as Roxanna Banana a simian zapped by a U.F.O. and given super powers.

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The basic premise of Laugh Busters revolves around the making of the NBC Special starring all of the new cartoon characters as well as the Smurfs, Spider-Man, Mr. T, Alvin & the Chipmunks, and the cast of Going Bananas. The director in charge, D.W. (played by Sandy Helberg), has his plans put in peril by Gargamore O’Dette, a super evil wizard (also portrayed by Helberg) bent on the end of laughter and the ultimate destruction of NBC. Why you ask? Because he’s allergic to laughter of course!  Here’s some audio from that opening segment

Director DW and Assistant

Gargamore ODette

Right off the bat after hitting play I was taken aback as there was a scene during the opening credits that featured a team up between an animated Mr. T and Alvin, Simon and Theodore. At first I thought this was a weird composting of elements from the two Ruby Spears cartoons, but upon digging a bit I found out that Mr. T was featured in the first segment in the premier episode of the 80s Chipmunks series (both shows debuted together the year prior in 1983.) There’s also a great song in the middle of the episode.  Somehow I’ve managed to miss out on this epic bit of pop culture fun for the last 31 years.

Chipmunks 2

After the detour of watching the first episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks I dove back into the Laugh Busters special. To execute his nefarious plan Gargamore kidnaps the Smurfs off screen and recruits two live action henchmen (played by James “Uncle Phil” Avery and Bill Saluga reprising their roles of the Grit Brothers Hank and Hubert from Going Bananas) to stop the rest of the characters from making it onto the special.

Captured Smurfs

Grit Brothers

Of course Thom Bray (Boz and his rad orange robot Roboz from Riptide) show up at the studio for the Special and they end up helping to track down the missing stars and cartoon characters starting with Spider-Man.

Thom Bray

Dan Gilvezan, voice of Spider-Man from the cartoon, redubs animation segments from the show to talk about being excited for the new season as well as taking a trip across country to appear on the new NBC special. He then proceeds to web-swing from NYC all the way to Burbank (seriously) set to the sweet dulcet melody of the city-name-dropping portion of the Huey Lewis song Heart of Rock and Roll.

Spiderman

Of course he encounters the infamous Grit Brothers near the city of One Horse USA, swinging into and getting trapped on a gigantic piece of ACME Fly Paper (in a live action segment that looks like it was straight out of an episode of the Electric Company)! Boz uses Roboz to call a honkytonk out there to enlist the help of Danny Cooksey (from Diff’rent Strokes and later Salute Your Shorts) to help. After performing his best Waylon Jennings imitation of the Ed Bruce song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (where the keen observer will notices the entire Kidd Video and Going Bananas cast in attendance as well as Alfonzo Ribero), Danny takes Boz’s call and agrees to help, though he needs a ride to go help Spider-Man since he’s just a kid and all.

Audience

Alfonzo

Boz then enlists the help of KITT from Knightrider to drive Danny out to rescue Spider-Man. What I love about this segment (aside from seeing a pint-sized Danny Cooksey behind the wheel of K.I.T.T.) is that this is the only onscreen pairing of Spider-Man and K.I.T.T. (I have a soft spot in my heart of Knightrider crossovers.) I also love that William Daniel voiced K.I.T.T. in this special uncredited…

Cooksey KITT Spiderman

With Spider-Man rescued, the Grit brothers turn their attention that that new up and coming rock ‘n roll band Kidd Video, and they literally roll a rock at the gang’s, knocking them and the Kiddmobile right out of the flipside back into the real world. Since their ship is messed up they decide to practice their new hit song (Video to Radio) out on a bridge near the wreckage.

Kidd Video

The special then cuts to Roxanna Banana listening to Kid Video on the radio and a reworking of the opening segment of the Going Bananas series then plays out. This bleeds back into the GB cast in their jalopy bus running into Kidd Video still playing out on the bridge and they decide to pick them up and head out to Burbank together.

Going Bananas

Things get a little weird when the special moves on to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Again, like with Spider-Man, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. reprises the role of Alvin to voice new material over clips from one of the cartoon episodes to tie it into the plot of this new story. The Grit brothers have boarded a train carrying the Chipmunks and Dave to Burbank, and the plan is to steal their train tickets so they’ll get kicked off, which they do. But when the Chipmunks get thrown off the train the special switches from animation to live action with three very bulky and ridiculously large chipmunk outfits. They’re rescued by Boz who sends the Riptide Helicopter (the Screaming Mimi) to pick them up.

Chipmunks

As the special moves into its second half the pace starts to pick up dramatically and the amount of original non-clip material is reduced. The last longish bit involves Mr. T and his gymnasts stopping at a meet they were invited to only to realize that it was a trap and they have a run in with the Grit brothers. Luckily they foil the Grit Bros. plan to steal their bus in a weird mix of live action and animation.  Though you hear his voice, you only ever see Mr. T’s real life arm (well, it was supposed to be Mr. T, but I’m sure it was just a stand-in double…)

MR T

Next up is the Pink Panther and Sons segment where Pinky and Panky, the sons of the Pink Panther are taking a bike ride through a city. The grit brothers show up and decide to paint a fake tunnel opening on a huge rock in the hopes that they will ride smack dab into it. The animation switches over to live action as a person in a huge Panky costume rides a bike straight through the painting much like in a cartoon. It’s just assumed that the false tunnel has become a wormhole to Burbank.

Pink Panther

In the second to last segment the Grit brothers are sitting in a raft and have a plan to obliterate the Snorks. They explain that everything in the Snorks underwater kingdom is run on steam and so they take control of one of NASA’s inter-continental ballistic missiles with a remote control and crash it into the sea sealing off an underwater volcano that is the source of the Snork’s steam production. This then switches over to animation where there is a clip of the Snorks removing said missile from the volcano and foiling the Grit Brother’s plan.

snorks

In the last segment Papa Smurf, the only Smurf not captured by Gargamore, figures out that O’Dette is trying not to laugh. So he develops a potion which he slips to Gargamore that makes him evaporate. Yes, Papa Smurf apparently kills Gargamore!

smurfs

This leads to an all-out dance celebration with all of the live action characters, cartoons and the guest stars (minus Panky and Thom Bray), rocking out to a spoof of the Ghostbusters theme by Ray Parker Jr.

Dance Party

I’ll be the first to admit that this Laugh Busters showcase special was super hokey and kind of hard to watch in spots, but I’m glad I finally caught up with one of these because it was great to see the mash-up of properties and characters. I know I would have loved it had I seen it back in 1984. It’s kind of a shame that it’s mostly lost to time, so as a small little capper to this experience I took the time to submit a bunch of information about the special to the pathetic IMDB listing. It’s slowly updating, but at least there’s now a synopsis, more crew and some trivia added. Hopefully they’ll add the rest of the cast that I submitted soon and this won’t be a completely lost bit of 80s fun.

And before I close this out, here’s a list of the original commercials that aired during the special…

Commercial Break

1). Fun with McNuggets: This is a fun early McNuggets commercial that still featured some of the older McDonaldland characters like the Professor and Captain Crook…

Fun With McNuggets

2). Raisin Bran BMX: This commercial is like a mash-up of the movie Rad and a kid crazy for his two scoops of raisins.  So crazy in fact that he decides to ditch halfway through the race to go eat more raisins…

Raisin Bran BMX

3). Wrangler Clothes (Live It to the Limit with Wrangler): This is the first time I’ve seen a Wrangler ad that was aimed at a young teen audience.  I’ve always associated these jeans with like older guys who work on farms or construction, so it was weird seeing the brand try and take a more Jordache spin.  Also, the commercial is an excuse to strip out of the clothes, a weird choice if you ask me…

Wrangler

4). Wendy’s Where’s the Beef?: The classic 80s Where’s the Beef commercial, ‘Nuff Said.

Wendys

5). Sneak Week with Punky Brewster, Silver Spoons, Highway to Heaven: Always fun seeing the 1st season promo material for Punky Brewster and the most adorable Brandon with an afro…

sneak week

6). Pop Tarts: Color coordinate your Pop Tarts kids.  Also, I forgot how much I missed seeing the bit where the knife is spread over the fruit filling that spells out fruit…

Pop Tarts

7). Chef Boyardee: This commercial wins the award for worst mom ever.  The little girls wants a cookie, but the mom thinking that’s unhealthy (why do you have them in the kitchen then?) stops her and gives her a full can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs instead.  Because that’s SOOOOO MUCH BETTER.  Sigh…

Chef Boyardee

Commercial Break 2

Rebuilding the 80s, brick by brick…

So it was announced today that the 7th official Lego Cuusoo project is going to be brick artist Brent Waller’s Ghostbusters play set.  I was pretty excited when I saw the news because the work he did on his Ecto-1 is kind of beyond superb…

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Not only is the Ecto-1 really beautiful, but his minifigs of our four heroes managed to really nail the personalities of Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter.

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For those unfamiliar, Lego Cuusoo is a community-building based platform to submit ideas to Lego.  These projects are put out to the public for support, and if they garner enough attention and votes the project is submitted to a review board for the possibility of becoming a production set.  The set that drew my attention to this concept was the Back to the Future DeLorean submitted early last year…

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The DeLorean wasn’t the first “branded” Cuusoo project, but it’s the first older property that I’m sure fans have been making builds of for years to finally see an official release.  I haven’t picked it up yet, but it sure is tempting.  The final build is slightly different than the proposed version above, a little blockier and a bit less sleek, but it’s still pretty fantastic…

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Coming hot on the heels of M. Togami’s Back to the Future DeLorean, this new Ghostbusters project got me thinking about what other possible 80s era projects builders have in the works.  I mean with two major 80s properties now available you know folks have to be scrambling to showcase their skills on other franchises.  It reminded me of a pretty rad series of Goonies sets I saw up on the site recently designed by a builder that goes by the handle Lyonsblood…

goonies 1

These Goonies sets manage to capture the adventure and aesthetic of the film in a very condensed format.  Take the organ of bones play set he calls Skeleton Scare.  The slide, the pit of spikes and the overall design of the cave are very rad and easily evoke the flick.  He’s also designed a set for One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship…

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But what really sold me on the Goonies designs were the minifig sets of both the Goonies gang, as well as Mama Fratelli and her boys.

goonies 2

goonies 4

As neat as these were I figured they’d probably never see the light of day, but after seeing Funko release a series of vinyl Pop Goonies figures there might be some hope just yet!  So, what other fun 80s-centric projects are floating around on Lego Cuusoo?  How about this rad large format build of the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee by artist Kenta974!

Dukes of Hazzard 1

Dukes of Hazzard 2

I love how he rendered the rebel flag on the roof, though it’s a design element that is the nail int eh coffin of this project never coming to fruition.  I’d have a hard time seeing Lego seek branding approval for such a controversial symbol as that iconic flag.  Even so, the build is awesome.  While we’re on the subject of rad cars, how about this super cool rendition of the Knight Industries Two Thousand by StevesXD

Knight Rider

He really managed to nail K.I.T.T.’s sleek curves and I think any Knightrider fan would love to have this on their shelf…

How could we have the Ecto-1, BTTF Time Machine, the General Lee and K.I.T.T. without the A-Team and B.A.’s super cool van?!?  Thanks to Isreal Lemus, we can take a look at a possible design as well as Hannibal, Murdock, B.A. and Faceman…

A-Team

Are we likely to see these other projects coming to full Cuusoo fruition?  Probably not.  I’d have to hazard a guess that the A-Team is too violent a property, the Dukes of Hazzard too controversial, and Knightrider not quite popular enough on the pop culture spectrum to garner enough potential buyers, but I think that the Goonies set has an honest to goodness shot if it can manage to get enough votes to put it in front of the review board.

The only build that’s absent from this list that really surprises me is Airwolf.  I must have spent two solid years trying to perfect my own “Lady” out of my rag tag mix of Space and Town sets as a kid.  I’m really kind of flabbergasted that no one has submitted a build for one on Cuusoo yet.  I couldn;t close out this post without one though, so here’s a beautiful build of the “Lady” by artist Orion Pax

Airwolf

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My Pop Culture Parking Lot…

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my love for tiny pop culture vehicles here at Branded so I decided to gather up all of my little die-cast beauties and go outside for a little photo-shoot this past weekend.  I can’t even begin to say how happy I am that companies like Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning are putting out so many 1:64 scale toys to feed my obsession with 80s era cars, trucks, and other rad modes of transportation from all the films and TV that I loved as a kid…

Pop Culture Parking Lot

I don’t have everything that I’d like to have in the collection, but it’s getting to the point where the tiny valets are having a hard time finding a place to park these babies!  I shared the handful of vehicles I managed to procure a couple years ago on the site a while back, like the Back to the Future DeLorean and Tron: Legacy Lightcycle in the picture above.  Since then I’ve managed to track down a bunch of new releases, as well as a couple of older pieces that I’m really excited about.  For instance, right behind the DeLorean you can spot Cooter’s Mustang from the Dukes of Hazzard.  Speaking of the DoH, I finally managed to track down an ERTL General Lee!

General Lee

That’s been a huge hole in my collection for years, but now I can start jumping over all sorts of 1:64 scale lakes and ravines.  Of course, what fun is having Bo & Luke’s sweet ride without Roscoe’s Sheriff Cruiser to chase it?

Roscoes Car DoH

I didn’t have that many little toy cars as a kid (though I distinctly remember playing with the yellow Incredible Hulk Hot Wheels Scene Machine), but I always wanted these Dukes of Hazzard cars.  I had a friend named Timmy who had a bunch of them as well as a large fold up plastic floor mat that had all of Hazzard county on it that he received for his birthday.  I have some vivid memories of laying down near that mat tracing the various roads with my finger while munching on some novelty bologna bubble gum slices that Timmy also got for his birthday…

One of the rad aspects of 80s era TV was all of the shows that either featured some cool cars or were dedicated to an awesome vehicle like Street Hawk, Riptide, Magnum P.I., Airwolf or the ridiculously awesome Knightrider!  Thanks to the recent Hot Wheels releases I now have K.I.T.T. and even K.A.R.R.!

KITT and KARR

I was just reading that there should be a third Knightrider release in the 2014 Retro Entertainment series from Hot Wheels, so I’m curious whether we’ll be getting one of the two cool Semis, either the Knight Foundations mobile command 16-wheeler or the evil Goliath!

Of course any collection of neat TV vehicles wouldn’t be complete without B.A. Baracus’ van and Face’s cool white Vette from the A-Team

BAB Van A-Team

Face Vett A-TEam

But not all of my favorite TV vehicles hail from the 80s as there were some other shows that I adored as a kid which I caught in reruns on Nickelodeon (either during weekdays or on Nick at Night.)  I was so excited when I realized that Johnny Lightning released the Monkees’ Monkee-Mobile back in 1998…

Monkees

Similarly Johnny Lightning put out the Munsters’ Koach in the early 2000s…

Munsters Koach

I decided that I wouldn’t limit my acquisitions to just real vehicles either and was super stoked when Hot Wheels started putting out cartoon-accurate stuff this past year as well.  I had to have the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine…

Mystery Machine

Hot Wheels has also begun releasing some other Hanna Barbera vehicles like the Flintstones family car and the Jetsons spaceship.  It’s kind of blurry in the background of that first parking lot photo, but if you squint you can make out the Flintstones car on the back right.  I decided not to feature it as there’s a better version hitting store shelves soon that has more accurate colors that I’d like to pick up.

Drawing from the 60s (and another show I caught in reruns) as well as the 80s are a couple of my favorite variations of the Batmobile…

Batmobiles 66 and 89

I used to have an ERTL Burton Batmobile, but lost it along the way over the years so I was really happy to replace it with the newer Hot Wheels release.  I was also happy to finally pick up the ’66 version from the old Adam West show recently as well.  Segueing into films, I wanted to share the first pop culture vehicle that sparked off this current trend in Hot Wheels retro cars, the 2010 release of the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters

Ecto-1

According to that 2014 release article I linked to above we’re in store for a second Ghostbusters vehicle release this year which I’m assuming is the Ecto-2 from the sequel (with the digital marquee and the checker tape siderunners.)  It would be kind of cool to get the beat-up original version of the hearse before it was pimped out by Ray though.

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Even though Hot Wheels has ramped up their production of these pop culture cars they’re still pretty difficult to find on store pegs.  I’m sure it’s a mix of scalpers snatching up all the product and the popularity of these coveted 1/64th scale cars, but it can be a real headache for collectors.  For instance I’ve been looking everywhere for the recent release of the Muppet’s converted school bus from the first flick.  I have yet to see one in the wild, but I was super lucky when gentleman and scholar CT over at Nerd Lunch very graciously gifted me with one this past Christmas!

Electric Mayhem Muppets

In fact that’s also how I managed to procure the Knightrider K.A.R.R. above, when the super cool William Bruce West sent me one he found.  I’ve been trying to spread the tiny car karma around whenever I find stuff that are hard to track down (like the Kroger grocery store Halloween Hot Wheels exclusive Slimer redeco Ecto-1 above…)

The most recent car I’ve tracked down for my collection isn’t an official pop culture car release, but close enough for me, this 1958 Plymouth Fury, AKA Christine from the Stephen King novel and John Carpenter movie…

Christine

Even though my pop culture parking lot is getting pretty full there are still some wishlist items that I’d love to hunt down, both releases I know are coming and some that I’m hopeful for (but not holding my breath.  So I’ll end this with my wishlist, but I’m curious, what vehicles do you have in your collection and what are you looking to procure?

Branded 1:64 scale vehicle wishlist….

1). Airwolf (Released by ETRL in the 80s, but also a Japanese Hot Wheels exclusive)

2). 1948 yellow Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible from Karate Kid (potentially this year!)

3). 250 GT California model Ferrari from Ferris Bueller (Available from Hot Wheels)

4). Ecto-2 from Ghostbusters II (There is a Johnny Lightning release)

5). Buckaroo Banzai Jetcar (no chance in hell, sigh)

6). Porkchop Express from Big Trouble in Little China

7). Mad Max’s Interceptor (maybe with the new flick?)

8). Street Hawk motorcycle

9). Megaforce Dune Buggy & Motorcycle (Hot Wheels 80s)

10). Flight of the Navigator Spaceship

11). Thunder Road from the Explorers

12). Dracula’s Hearse from The Monster Squad

13). Mama Fatelli’s 4×4 from The Goonies

14). Light up VW Bug from The Money Pit

15). Harry’s Mutt Cutts Van from Dumb & Dumber

16). Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation