Movie: As the DVD medium prepares to make the next step (into some form of HD DVD), a number of older shows are just starting to appear on the established version of the format. While most of the attention goes to the handful of blockbuster titles of a given week, a lot of fans are finding some buried treasure from our youth being released too. I recall how pleased I was that the Yogi Bear: Complete Series set came out last month and this got me to thinking about the many other shows we grew up with as kids. Some of the best came from the studios of Sid & Marty Krofft, a couple of interesting characters from what I've read that are alternately blamed for turning a generation onto psychedelic drugs or turning them into brainless zombies by virtue of their multitude of television shows that were especially popular in the late 1960's through the late 1970's. Having watched many of them myself (and not, for the record, turning into either a zombie or a druggie), I always thought they were creative, fun to watch, and a soft blend of the usual moral pap we still foist on children in the name of entertainment to this day. Today's review of The Bugaloos is yet another step in providing us grown ups with pieces of our childhood, all served up in a convenient DVD release, although this time, there were only three episodes on the disc in question.
The Bugaloos was a Saturday morning show that lasted a mere 17 episodes, initially beginning its run on September 2, 1970. It lasted a half hour (closer to 21 minutes without commercials) and detailed the adventures of five creatures in Tranquility Forest as they kept trying to remain one step ahead of the evil Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye). They were basically a British pop group starring the extremely cute Caroline Ellis as Joy, John Philpot as Courage, Wayne Laryea as Harmony, and John McIndoe as I.Q. with a mascot named Sparky the Firefly played by the diminutive Billy Barty. They had wings, antenna, and lived in flowers on the edge of civilization. Benita was a wannabe singer with a terrible voice who always sought to capture or trick the group into assisting her with recording a hit record. She had a few minions that helped her rule her recording studio (with an entrance that looked very much like the NBC peacock) and empire named Funky Rat (a Nazi inspired chauffeur) and twins Woofer and Tweeter.
Like most live television shows of the time, the episodes would start with a problem that the team would have to fix before the ending credits. In between would come a song or two, usually led by Caroline (who's first song was "Time To Taste The Honey", giving me a completely different outlook as to the meaning of the song as she pranced around in her skimpy outfit than it did 35 years ago). The characters never acted particularly like their names (this changed in later shows where someone named "I.Q." would be the smart one, "Courage" would be the adventurous one, etc.) and the stories were generic fluff that would play on the caricatures presented in the form of the cast. Of note was this being the first Krofft show recorded on videotape; complete with laugh track.
My biggest complaint with this DVD was that it contained only three episodes instead of the entire 17 episode run like a VHS set released several years ago (which was out of print when I last checked). Perhaps if this one sells well, it will lead to the entire set coming out on DVD in the future but it was a nice little starter to warm up with nonetheless. The episodes were:
1: Firefly, Light My Life: This was the series opener where the Bugaloos met up with Sparky and came across Benita Bizarre.
4: Courage Comes Home: Courage is struck by lightning and loses his memory only to be taken advantage of by Benita, who claims him as her nephew and servant.
11: The Uptown 500: This episode centered on a race between Benita and the Bugaloos with Benita holding Sparky as hostage to insure her victory.
Aside from the problems associated with the video source material of the episodes, I wanted to see the entire set given some of the Krofft properties already released on DVD. The music was a lot better than Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, all the incredible colors were intact as with Liddsville, H.R.Pufnstuf, and others, with the formulaic pattern of the stories nearly identical to the other shows of the Krofft studios. There were more than a few double entendres presented in the episodes but it was definitely made for younger children. I wish there were some references available to compare any potential edits but even the Krofft website had little to go on (with the same case on other websites). Still, the show was cute enough that I'd like to check out a full series boxed set (the show lasted a year or so but the episodes repeated a lot if I recall correctly-it was a long time ago folks!). I'm going to rate this as a Rent It unless it's just a low cost taste of an upcoming full set release (a set would rate a bit higher). It wasn't the most creative series from the Krofft's but it had the best music (by far) and served to help introduce video to children's programming so it gets some nostalgia points too.
Picture: The Bugaloos was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. This being an early video release, the quality of the picture was seriously lacking with some major pixelation, color bleeding, and compression artifacts that looked traceable to the source material. It looked a lot lower budget than I remembered it but you'll know right away that Sid and Marty had their hand in the production of the show given the stylish appearance here.
Sound: The audio was presented in the original monaural although cleaned up with a Dolby Digital processing (showing on my equipment as 2.0 monaural). The vocals were sometimes slightly out of synchronization with the picture and sometimes were hollow but the highly processed musical numbers were pleasant enough. The dubbing was pretty bad with the puppet characters but I'd be surprised if any of these three episodes were given more than a couple of takes before wrapping up for the week.
Extras: There were no extras.
Final Thoughts: The Bugaloos only had three episodes, had lots of technical problems relating to the source material, and was as corny as could be but I still enjoyed revisiting my childhood by watching it. I could see how this one influenced shows that came later (Pee Wee's Playhouse coming to mind more than anything else) and will wait to see if this is just a test for the market to see if an entire series release will be forthcoming. Taking a British pop group of attractive performers and adding in lots of kid friendly material, The Bugaloos was worth checking out for watching Caroline Ellis alone. As a teaser, the DVD whetted my appetite for a lot more though.