A catchphrase as instantly recognizable as the man behind it. Big, tough, Mohawk-sporting (the haircut was technically a Mandinkan, to the purists), and decked out in over $300,000 worth of gold chains and earrings, Mr. T entered the ring as the unstoppable Clubber Lang in Rocky III, then shot to instant stardom as mechanic/tough guy B.A. Barracus on NBC’s wildly popular The A-Team.
Eager to expand Mr. T‘s already huge fan following among youngsters, the network commissioned Ruby-Spears to create a Saturday morning series around their golden boy, with the former Laurence Tureaud (he changed his name so everyone would have to call him “Mister”) himself to star. After a guest-starring launch on the premiere of Ruby-Spears’ Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mr. T got his own, self-titled program, an animated half-hour framed by live-action inserts.
In the show, T ran a gymnasium, where a rainbow coalition of young gymnasts came to practice: Kim, Woody, Jeff, Sky, Vinnie, Courtney, Garcia, Robin, and Robin’s little brother Jeff, a wannabe tough who copied his idol to a “T.” Together with Miss Bisby and T’s bulldog, Spike (same haircut, same attitude), the group spent their off hours finding trouble and fixing it.
Mr. T provided the voice of his own character and appeared in the opening and closing segments, which provided the moral of the day’s adventures: don’t ride with strangers, never be afraid to walk away from a fight, etc.
The show lasted three seasons and thirty episodes, ending shortly before the final prime time season of The A-Team.
If you thought you knew everything about you favorite 80’s cartoons, think again! From the many great, and some not so great, cartoons that aired in the 80’s there is an abundance of things about them you never knew. Check out these little known facts about 25 of your favorite cartoons from the 80’s! Let us know which ones surprised you the most.
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero
Fact: G.I. Joe premiered in 1983 with a 5-episode story called “The MASS Device“. The fact that is was shown in 5 parts made it the first animated mini-series in television history.
Fact: BraveStarr has the distinction of being the last cartoon series produced by our beloved Filmation studios. Filmation was also responsible for bringing us The Archie Show, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, and it’s most famous creation, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Read about the rise and fall of Filmation Studios in the excellent book, Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation
Also, you can read more about Bravestarr over at The Robot’s Pajamas
Fact: The Wuzzles only ran for 13 episodes, making it the shortest running animated Disney series of all time.
The Shirt Tales
Fact: The Shirt Tales series was created from a line of Hallmark greeting cards. When the cards lost popularity, so did the cartoon series.
Get the Shirt Tales Complete Series on DVD here
Starting in the 1970’s, people began to cast a suspicious eye on the safety standards used in making toys. Parents and lawmakers began voicing their concerns and this led to new legal standards for what could and could not be sold to children at the toy store. Toys have become much safer over the years as a result of this, but a hazardous toy slips through the cracks every now and then and makes it to the market. One of the most notorious examples in recent memory is the case of Lawn Darts. These outdoor leisure items enjoyed a lengthy period of popularity, but quickly got yanked from the marketplace when its potential for danger became too obvious.
Lawn Darts began to appear in sporting goods and toy stores in the 1960’s and were made by various manufacturers (Sears Department Stores had their own Sears Lawn Darts, and so on). Also sold under the name “Jarts”, these items were 12 inches long, with a heavy tip made of metal on one end and decorative plastic fins at the other end. The metal tips were blunt so they wouldn’t cut the hands of the person tossing them, but remained pointy and heavy enough to stick in the ground they were thrown at.
My aunt used to keep these stocked in her freezer, and every time I went to stay with my cousin, I could eat all of them that I wanted. My favorite was the orange flavored Goofy pop. What was yours?
Here we are once again with a TV Guide Fall Preview Flashback, this time with Highway to Heaven from 1984. I never watched this show in prime time in it’s original run, but I can remember watching it weekday afternoons after school in syndication. It was usually on in the background while I was doing homework, but I caught enough of it through the years to know it’s a show I like.
It’s on Netflix now, si I’m thinking about giving it a shot from an older perspective to see what I think about it now.
Cloak & Dagger told the story of the little boy who cried, “Government spies are selling out the country and I have the video game to prove it!” In this loose reworking of 1949’s The Window (which was in turn based on a Cornell Woolrich short story), an eleven-year-old boy with a vivid imagination got himself into more trouble than he could’ve imagined.
Davey Osborne is the tale-spinning son of widowed military officer Hal Osborne. When Davey gets handed a special copy of the video game Cloak & Dagger by a dying spy, he discovers a plot to sell vital U.S. secrets to enemies abroad. But who’ll believe him? No one, it seems, as Hal and the other adults think it’s simply another case of Davey’s overactive imagination.
Davey’s imaginary hero, Jack Flack, shows up to lend a hand, but he can only carry the boy so far. Once reality sets in, it’s up to the Davey’s natural ingenuity and determination to get himself and his friends out of the villains’ clutches.
Henry Thomas, fresh off his starring role in the mega blockbuster E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, starred as Davey, and Dabney Coleman played the dual role of Hal Osborne and Jack Flack. Along with Tron and WarGames, Cloak & Dagger was one of the first Hollywood films to acknowledge the growing popularity of video games. But more importantly to its young fans, the movie acknowledged an older and greater truth: nobody ever listens to kids, even when murderous double agents really are out to kill them.
I miss the “glory days” of Pizza Hut. That magical time in the 80’s and early 90’s when it was a destination, and not just somewhere to eat. I’ve found recently that those days of yore are long gone, and what is left is what seems like a company struggling to hang on.
Last week, we took our daughters to Pizza Hut for lunch, and as I sat there with them enjoying lunch, I looked around the place and just shook my head at how much it has changed through the years. To me, it no longer feels special. It just feels like another fast food joint with nothing to make it stand out.
As you’ve learned by now, my Father traveled quite a bit when I was growing up, and to kind of take the sting out being gone so much, when he would get back in town on the weekends, he would always take the family out to eat on Friday or Saturday night. This usually meant a trip to Western Steer, Bonanza, or Wendy’s back when they had the Superbar. But a couple of times a year, we would be treated to my favorite place to go in that time frame, Pizza Hut. We only got to go a few times a year because, for the time, Pizza Hut was expensive. But that was part of the appeal. It was a step above other places to eat back then. You weren’t just paying for the food, you were buying an experience.
From the moment you walked in the place, you knew it was something special. You knew this was going to be something you’d remember, and it all started with the decor. The interior didn’t look like a fast food joint with it’s huge, sprawling windows, and cheap looking walls, or tiled floors. When you walked in, you were greeted by brick walls, with smaller windows, that had thick red fabric curtains pulled back, and a carpeted floor. It just felt higher-class that walking into McDonalds or Burger King.
The booths were high-backed, with thick padded vinyl seats and back rests. The high backs was also different from your usual eating out experience. These high backs gave you a sense of privacy, which was great for a date night. Also great for a date night were the candles on the tables. Those little red glass candles that were on every table, and were lit when you got to your seat. It was a little thing, but when added to everything else, it was quite the contribution. Your silverware was wrapped in a thick, cloth napkin that beat the heck out of the paper napkins everyone else was using at the time. And you could always count on the table being covered by a nice, red and white, checkered table cloth.
The lighting at Pizza Hut back then was lower that what you were used to at other places. This was due to the lower wattage bulbs they used, along with their gorgeous, Pizza Hut log emblazoned, stained glass light shades they used to have. Seeing one of those things now instantly takes me back to another place in time! They still look classy and bring old memories flooding back every time I see or think of one. The private feeling booth, the low lighting, the candle on the table, and the brick wall beside you gave a unique feel to the table you were dining at. It greatly enhanced the overall experience.
Action shows have had plenty of cop and detective heroes, but somehow, the ever-humble stuntman usually got left out of the picture. This imbalance was corrected in the early 1980’s when The Fall Guy hit the airwaves. This show was the brainchild of the ever-prolific Glen A. Larson, the television producer behind such colorful fare as B.J. And The Bear, Battlestar Galactica, and Knight Rider. Like those classics, The Fall Guy blended a comic-book-style premise with plenty of action and humor.
The focus of The Fall Guy was Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman. This character was brought to life by Lee Majors, a macho actor best known to viewers as The Six Million Dollar Man. Majors also sang the show’s witty country-pop theme song, “The Unknown Stuntman”, which chronicled the woes of your average, everyday stuntman.
But Colt was much more than an ordinary stuntman. This man’s man supplemented his rough-and-tumble day job by moonlighting as a bounty hunter. Of course, this side gig turned out to be every bit as dangerous as his movie and TV work.
Colt also had two assistants to aid him in his quest for justice and profits. The first was his nephew Howie Munson, an aspiring stuntman who usually seemed pretty hapless in the derring-do department. The other assistant was Jody Banks, a foxy stunt woman who added plenty of moxie and eye-candy to the show’s proceedings. Colt and crew’s assignments were doled out by series of bail-bonds women: the first was Samantha “Big” Jack, later to be followed by Terri Michaels and finally Pearl Sperling in the show’s final season.
Each week’s episode began in fine James Bond fashion, with Colt performing a death-defying stunt on a movie set. This would be followed by a visit to the bail-bondswoman for an assignment. She always painted the week’s assignment as an easy score, but it never quite worked out that way for poor Colt. Inevitably, the quest for an easy bounty would lead Colt and his team into a predicament that required him to put his stuntman skills to use. Usually, the stunt he used to escape danger used elements of the stunt he performed at the beginning of the episode, keeping a karmic balance to our man Colt’s wild double life.
The Fall Guy never disappointed in the “colorful villain” arena, pitting Colt and his team against a diverse group of foes that included everything from rampaging bikers to evil UFO’s, along with the familiar thieves and smugglers. Even more colorful than these villains was the guest star who made an appearance in each episode: the laundry list of famous guest faces included the likes of Buddy Hackett, Elvira, and Richard Burton (!). There was also the occasional music-themed episode that would include acts like Sha Na Na or The Temptations.
The result was a splashy, good-natured adventure that blended thrills, laughs, and a bit of glitz into an audience-friendly package. Thus, it was no surprise when this very commercial creation became a ratings hit. The Fall Guy ended up enjoying a five-season run that carried it into the spring of 1986. Since then, the show has continued to entertain fans new and old through syndication. As long as television fans enjoy a good old-fashioned display of Hollywood-style adventure, The Fall Guy and it’s “Unknown Stuntman” will have a slot on television.
Each week on Monday, I post a new topic here on Retro Ramblings. The topics will be centered mostly around a retro theme to get your mind going back in time a little bit. Anyone who is interested, and has a blog, website, YouTube channel, or social media account can contribute to the weekly topic, and respond by the following Sunday. Once the article, blog post, video, or whatever is posted, the writer must leave a comment on the topic page along with a URL to his/her article.
If you are posting a response via social media, be sure to tag it with the hashtag, #RetroRevival (and you may also want to tag me on Twitter @yesterdayville) to ensure that I don’t miss it.
Every blog that contributes to the weekly topic should include links to some of the other contributing sites. This is optional, but the more people who do this, the more traffic will be generated for all of us. There is a distinct advantage to getting your post up earlier in the week, but don’t feel like you need to rush your post.
This Week’s Topic
This week, I thought it would be fun to go back in time and talk about some food item that you miss from years ago, or some fast food item that is no longer available, or even some kind of restaurant or dining experience that just isn’t the same anymore. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with. Myself, I’ll be putting something up later this week about how Pizza Hut just isn’t like it used to be.
Be sure to keep checking back here as I’ll be adding links to all the entries to this post.
If you have any more questions about the Retro Revival Blog Challenge, check out our page here for more info.
Participants This Week:
Deadly hand-to-hand combat, digitized graphics, special moves, splattering blood… Mortal Kombat, 1992? Nope. Pit-Fighter, 1990. This lesser-known Atari fighting game may not have grabbed the gaming world by its head and pounded it into submission like Mortal Kombat would two years later, but Pit-Fighter was a dark, violent preview of things to come.
Set in a crumbling, crowded warehouse, Pit-Fighter matched tough guys and gals against each other for glory and money. Players took control of one of three fighters—kickboxer Ty, shades-wearing wrestler Buzz or black belt Kato—then tried to knock the living daylights out of an opponent to two. The characters were all created from digitized pictures of real-life actors, a la Mortal Kombat (but with less detail and animation). The same technique was used to capture the game’s array of powerful enemies—The Executioner, Southside Jim, Angel, Chainman Eddie, Mad Miles, C.C. Rider, Heavy Metal and the champ himself, The Masked Warrior.
Unlike the next generation of fighting games, Pit-Fighter actually allowed players to team up on their foes, with up to three players joining in the same battle. This was no easy way out, however. The more good guys there were on the floor, the more bad guys would show up to the brawl. Not only that, but the game frequently pitted its human players against one another, forcing them to fight “Grudge Match” bonus rounds, with the last fighter standing earning a hefty load of extra cash (the losers did get to keep playing, but there was always the shame factor). And if the good guys managed to fight their way to the final round, they’d have to face each other in an “Elimination Match” to see which one earned the right to take on The Masked Warrior.
Battles went on until a fighter’s life bar was drained, after which the victor was given his winnings, including bonuses for knockouts and/or excess brutality. The brutality wasn’t strictly in the arena, either. The Pit-Fighter crowd was a hostile one, and if players accidentally slipped out of (or got thrown out of) the ring, the fans would rough them up a bit before tossing them back in.
The arena itself was rather unfriendly as well, with several blunt and sharp objects lying around, waiting to be used as weapons. The occasional knife, barrel, stick, bar stool, crate or even motorcycle made a handy weapon in a pinch, but the bad guys could use them as well.
Pit-Fighter was actually quite a success in its day, helping players quench their blood lust with a little one-on-one (or three-on-three) melee. Unfortunately for Atari, however, the game had a severe case of bad timing. Street Fighter II hit arcades the following year, and every fighter before it was suddenly obsolete.