PoP! Top 6-Pack: Failed Cartoons

The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.

Just like all TV genres, cartoons have had their share of hits and misses in their long and varied history on the small screen. Today’s Six-Pack offers a closer look at just a few of the most glaring animated non-hits of the past few decades. Some were decent, most weren’t so good, and a couple of them were just plain weird. Read on, and see how many you can remember.

    Fish Police

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This very short-lived primetime cartoon from Hanna-Barbara is a good example of how not to adapt a comic book series for television. Based on the long-running indie comic, Fish Police follows an aquatic police precinct investigating crimes committed in their undersea city. The show premiered in the winter of 1992 and only lasted three episodes before low ratings led to its abrupt cancellation. Six episodes were actually produced, but the final three were never seen in the U.S. While the cartoon had more adult themes than most Hanna-Barbara shows, the scripts were a lot more lighthearted and “cutesy” than the comic’s dark, film noir-inspired stories. This no doubt turned off the cult fanbase while at the same time doing nothing to reel in the general public (Get it? “Reel in”…’cause they’re fish?). Fish Police debuted during a time when the success of The Simpsons made all networks eager to produce a primetime animated series, but its complete lack of edge doomed it from the get-go.

    Fraggle Rock

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This animated adaptation of Jim Henson’s popular HBO series seemed like a surefire hit when it first aired in the Fall of 1987, but it only lasted 13 episodes. After revisiting the show with my daughter thanks to Netflix Instant View, the flaws in the cartoon became a lot more evident and made its cancellation a lot more understandable. There’s really nothing wrong with the animated version, but compared to the original show, it comes across as bland and uninspired. The voices of the characters did not sound like the Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs we all grew to love in Henson’s original version, and the stories didn’t have the emotional resonance and sense of fun that made that show so special. At least the producers of the animated version had the good sense to keep the original music, but all that did was make me and my daughter want to watch the original show, which thankfully is also available on Netflix Instant. Unlike Henson’s wildly popular Muppet Babies cartoon, Fraggle Rock didn’t bother to do anything unique with its source material and failed to capture the attention of young audiences.

    Camp Candy

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From the time it first aired in the Fall of 1989, this animated vehicle for beloved funnyman John Candy seemed marked for failure. First off, NBC scheduled it during the earliest time slot for its Saturday morning lineup, which didn’t bode well for its future. Secondly, the theme song was one of the worst pieces of music ever produced for a TV show, animated or otherwise. Thirdly, the show was flat-out boring. The main character, voiced by Candy himself, was the owner of a summer camp who ineptly tried to teach outdoor skills to a group of dull children and protected the camp from demolition by the villainous Rex Deforest III (subtle name, there). Despite nationwide indifference, Camp Candy managed to last a season and a half before NBC pulled the plug. Its cancellation officially validated the 1988 movie The Great Outdoors as America’s favorite way to see John Candy bumble around in the woods.

    The Goode Family

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This most recent failure on the list is Mike Judge’s animated sitcom about an ultra-liberal, environmentally-fanatic family which ran for just a few weeks in the summer of 2009. The show was very similar in tone to Judge’s previous animated series King of the Hill, except instead of poking fun at straight-laced, suburban Texans, he decided to focus on people at the other side of the socio-political spectrum. The show had the same dry humor and relatable characters that made KOTH so enjoyable, and the voice cast was comprised of many talented individuals, including Brian-Doyle Murray and Linda Cardellini. Despite earning modest critical acclaim, ratings for The Goode Family were low, and ABC unceremoniously axed it. Comedy Central soon picked up the reruns and hinted at giving the show a second season, but they quickly took that back and left The Goodes to fend for themselves in the compost heap of cancelled cartoons.

    Gilligan’s Planet

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Thank you, Internet, for proving to me that this show actually existed. For a long time, I thought I had somehow raided my Dad’s LSD supply in the Fall of 1982 and just hallucinated this show every Saturday morning. As the title suggests, this cartoon follows the exploits of Gilligan, The Skipper, and “all the rest” after they finally escape the island but then become stranded on another planet. The humor was just as stupid as the original Gilligan’s Island but was a lot more exaggerated due to it being animated. The only thing the show really had going for it was that the voices were provided by the original actors from Gilligan’s Island. Predictably, kids just weren’t that interested in seeing characters from a long-cancelled sitcom from the 60’s in space, and the show died a quick, painless death. Other animators apparently didn’t learn anything from the show’s failures, as animated versions of Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy soon followed, all of which were soon cancelled as well. The lesson learned by the failure of Gilligan’s Planet is that old, tired concepts don’t get any fresher by changing the location and making them into cartoons.

    Police Academy

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The first Police Academy movie from 1984 featured a scene in which a man fell head-first into a horse’s rear end and ended (Spoiler Alert?) with the main character getting a surprise blow job under a podium while giving a speech. The sequels were a little cleaner, but even their abundance of dick and fart jokes made the franchise an unlikely candidate for a kids’ cartoon. Still, in the Fall of 1988, a syndicated Police Academy show premiered, as did a toy line from Kenner and a monthly comic book published by Marvel’s STAR imprint. The cartoon followed Carey Mahoney and his band of fun-loving peace officers as they fought crime in their own unique way and played numerous pranks on the uptight Captain Harris and his dim-witted sidekick, Proctor. Sadly, at no point in the show did Harris and Proctor get duped into patronizing a leather bar like they did in every installment of the movie series. Unlike most of the shows on this list, Police Academy inexplicably lasted two seasons, yet its departure from the airways wasn’t exactly bemoaned by anyone. Perhaps if it came out during the post-South Park era of more adult-oriented animated series, it may have been more successful, but in this watered-down kiddie version, it failed to entertain either kids or adults and, like the movies themselves, quickly vanished into obscurity.

Did I miss an old favorite or unfairly dump on a long-forgotten show you kinda dug? Feel free to voice your opinions below, and let me know what you liked or didn’t like about a certain animated show from days gone by.

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Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

Comments (10)

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  1. Spider_Fan14 says:

    Seriously!? Fraggle Rock was an HBO original?
    I’d nominate the following; Josie and the PussyCats in Space (for the reason of Gilligan In Space), Gravedale High (Not that original, basically a vehicle for whatshisface from the “Little Shop of Horrors” remake) & Clerks the Animated Series (Screwed over by the abc). Saw the first and third nominees on TV, the second being on youtube. I loved Clerks:TAS, it was really funny imho.

    Also I’ve seen Fish Police back issues at my used book store, is it any good?

  2. Superdoug says:

    You forgot the most insular of the Scooby-Doo knock-offs: The Funky Phantom. Produced in 1971, it was a cartoon about a group of three kids who discover a Revolutionary War-Era ghost and his ghost cat inside an old grandfather clock when they set the hands to midnight.

    It followed the same format as Scooby-Doo, Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, and any of those ‘crime solving kids’ shows. I remember it mostly because the phantom, named ‘Mudsy’, sounded like Snagglepuss when he talked, and Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees was the voice of the ‘cool’ leader of the gang.

    The show may have just been ahead of its time; it most likely would have found an audience had it premiered in 1976, during the country’s bicentennial. However, Mudsy did enjoy a brief appearance in Harvey Birdman, where he answers Peanut’s question “What makes the Phantom so Funky?”

  3. Ben Gilbert says:

    Spider Fan: Yes, young one, Fraggle Rock did in fact premiere on HBO. Sigh…kids today…

    Doug: Now I MUST track down clips of the Funky Phantom. Oh, the seventies…

  4. chuck says:

    I loved camp candy.

  5. Gojiratoho says:

    God, I want to forget that Fish Police ever existed. It was an abomination compared to the comic book.

    Spider_Fan: I loved that book (and not just because my uncle worked on it). If you can find it, the graphic novel Hairballs is a collection of the first 4 books. Marvel also reprinted the first 6 issues under their moniker (it was produced by Comico up until issue 16 or 17, then Apple Press for the remainder originally).

  6. David page says:

    No toxic crusaders?!?

  7. Jason Knize says:

    Camp Candy and Police Academy FTMFW. Those Police Academy toys OWNED.

  8. lordd3r3k says:

    I used to watch this show called Dark Water. It was about pirates that encountered patches of this mystical sentient ooze on the sea. I don’t remember much of it, assuming it got canned after the first season?

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