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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One, Vol. 2
The All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One, Vol. 2
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 27, 2009
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted March 3, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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There's really no difference between the last eight episodes of "The All-New Super Friends Hour" and its first seven, which I already reviewed (right here). Everything's the same here: the corny action, the limp morality lessons, the cheesy between-the-stories filler material. If it's just a rundown of the series you're after, how it's different from other Super Friends shows, and why it's both horrible and terrific, you'll do fine to simply check out my previous review. If you're hunting for a checklist of episodes and extras for this second batch of discs, scroll on down; you'll find what you need there.

Not wanting to use this space to merely rehash my thoughts on the show, I turn to the DVDs themselves for inspiration. There we see a featurette on two of pop culture's most derided characters, and hey, what the heck, let's spend a few minutes discussing those oft-maligned sidekicks, Zan and Jayna. The Wonder Twins. With their space monkey, Gleek!

When the Super Friends first arrived on television screens in 1973, they were paired with two non-superhero teenagers, Wendy and Marvin. The reasons for having a couple of kids hanging around the Hall of Justice were never really explained within the episodes, although the behind-the-scenes reasoning was more open: in addition to comic relief (Marvin was a bumbler, as was their pet mutt Wonder Dog), the duo could be stand-ins for the young viewers at home. Makers of children's entertainment have always pushed for identifiable characters to tag along with the older heroes.

"Super Friends" didn't go over well and was cancelled after a single season. When Hanna-Barbera sought to return the franchise to ABC's Saturday morning lineup (revamped as "The All-New Super Friends Hour") in 1977, Marvin and Wendy got the boot. In their place - also without explanation - were Zan and Jayna, two shape-shifting aliens with the most bizarre, poorly conceived superpowers: after touching fists (and delivering one heck of an incantation: "Wonder Twins powers, activate!"), Jayna (voiced by Liberty Williams) could become any animal she wanted, while Zan (Michael Bell) could form into... water. Any kind of water you like, really. Ice bridges, ice cages, that sort of thing. But usually just a big splash of water.

The ridiculousness of this concept has been parodied and ridiculed for decades now, as Gen-Xers raised on the show quickly grew up to realize that turning oneself into a puddle wasn't much of a crime deterrent. The best such spoofs came from shorts made for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, in which Zan's powers often resulted in failure (as when an ice bridge caused the teens he was hoping to rescue to slip to their deaths, because, seriously, a bridge made of ice?).

As if such insane talents weren't enough to land them in the Horrible Hero Hall of Fame, along came Gleek. Gleek was their "space monkey," whatever that is, a nattering blue chimp with a dumb name and a prehensile tail that could act as a rope or spring or lasso, what have you. Gleek was the comic relief. Gleek was cheap slapstick. Gleek was no damn good.

But Gleek carried the bucket - sometimes produced out of nowhere, causing fans to later joke that bucket-conjuring was his superpower - and Zan sure as heck needed that bucket if he wanted to get anywhere in the form of a big pile of sloshy purple water. Thanks to the animators' reliance on stock animation, the series was riddled with episodes involving Jayna, as an eagle, carrying a bucket o' Zan. In my previous review, I wrote: "You almost feel pity for the writing staff; fifteen episodes means trying to find fifteen different ways of getting a superhero turning into water to lead to a thrilling conclusion." I apparently left out the part where the writers didn't bother with fifteen different ways, nor did they bother with "thrilling."

Actually, the writers were stuck hunting for thirty ways of dealing with the Twins, for each "Super Friends Hour" episode featured the duo in two separate adventures. One was the full team story, where their antics could be ignored while watching Batman and Aquaman fight some monster. The other, though, was a spotlight adventure devoted entirely to the Wonder Twins - a story, one per episode, that sought to teach kids about safety and kindness, thus fulfilling most of the network's educational obligations.

Zan and Jayna got this job because they were designed to be hip, with-it teens, the kind that spoke jive. Unlike stuffy old Superman or boring old Wonder Woman, the Wonder Twins think that new disco music you like is really groovy, and that new hairstyle you want is totally far out.

This dates the characters far more than anything else about the series. The Twins are eternally stuck in the late 1970s; their attitudes and lingo are straight out of kids' TV of the era, as are their stories. With their Teen Trouble wristwatch communicators, they always knew when a local youth was about to get into, well, trouble, and they'd set out to, say, teach a kid why cheating and drag racing and racism are bad. (The racism episode is doubly embarrassing for the use of the term "a couple of blacks." Even for the 70s, that seems all kinds of wrong.) Some of these lessons have long passed their expiration dates - would today's children even know what hitchhiking is? - while others seemed weird even then - what kid of the Carter years needed to be warned against stowing away on someone's yacht? Was there a big teenage-yacht-stowaway trend I missed? And if so, how come Irwin Allen never made a movie about it?

Maybe that's why nobody likes the Wonder Twins. It's not the turning-into-a-puddle thing, it's the snootily-telling-you-not-to-do-something-you-wouldn't-do-anyway thing. When playing second fiddle to the Super Friends, they're tolerably mediocre, but when on their own, Zan and Jayna are preachy and dull, know-it-alls with purple disco jumpsuits and bad hair and a blue monkey.

Mercifully, the duo's "Teen Trouble" stories would only last for this single season; by the time the show was reworked as "Challenge of the Super Friends" the next year, Zan and Jayna were dialed down to sidekick status only. Even then, they'd somehow wind up sticking around for some eight more years, surviving each new evolution of the show, finally getting phased out by the arrival of the final "Super Friends" incarnation, 1985's "The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians." By that time, however, they already cemented their role in Gen-X history: form of pop culture punchlines.

The DVD

Warner Bros. collects the series' final eight episodes in the slightly misnamed "The All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One Volume Two." (The first season was the only season, so the "Season One" is unnecessary.) The episodes are spread over two discs, which are housed in a slim digipak with a single tray that overlaps the discs; this slips into a thin slipcover. It's the same packaging as the Volume One set.

As with the first set, the episodes do not appear to be presented in original broadcast order, although it doesn't really matter with this show, whose episodes were designed to be repeatedly shuffled during reruns. The episodes included on this set are:

Disc One

Episode eight: "The Invisible Menace" (Aquaman, Superman) / "Initiation" (Wonder Twins) / "Coming of the Anthropods" (Super Friends) / "River of Doom" (Wonder Woman, Rima) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Wonder Woman) / "De-Coder" (Batman & Robin) / "Magic" (Aquaman)

Episode nine: "Attack of the Giant Squid" (Aquaman, Superman) / "Game of Chicken" (Wonder Twins) / "The Water Beast" (Super Friends) / "Volcano" (Superman, Samurai) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Batman & Robin) / "De-Coder" (Aquaman) / "Magic" (Superman)

Episode ten: "The Collector" (Superman, Wonder Woman) / "Handicap" (Wonder Twins) / "The Mind Maidens" (Super Friends) / "Alaska Peril" (Batman, Apache Chief) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Aquaman) / "De-Coder" (Superman) / "Craft" (Wonder Woman)

Episode eleven: "The Fifty Foot Woman" (Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman) / "Cheating" (Wonder Twins) / "Exploration Earth" (Super Friends) / "Attack of the Killer Bees" (Aquaman, Samurai) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Aquaman) / "De-Coder" (Wonder Woman) / "Craft" (Batman & Robin)

Disc Two

Episode twelve: "Forbidden Power" (Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman) / "Pressure Point" (Wonder Twins) / "The Lionmen" (Super Friends) / "The Day of the Rats" (Batman & Robin, Black Vulcan) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Aquaman) / "De-Coder" (Wonder Woman) / "Magic" (Batman & Robin)

Episode thirteen: "The Man-Beast of Xra" (Superman, Batman & Robin) / "Prejudice" (Wonder Twins) / "The Tiny World of Terror" (Super Friends) / "Tibetan Raiders" (Superman, Flash) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Wonder Woman) / "De-Coder" (Batman & Robin) / "Magic" (Aquaman)

Episode fourteen: "Frozen Peril" (Aquaman, Superman) / "Dangerous Prank" (Wonder Twins) / "The Mummy of Nazca" (Super Friends) / "Cable Car Rescue" (Wonder Woman, Atom) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Aquaman) / "De-Coder" (Wonder Woman) / "Craft" (Aquaman)

Episode fifteen: "The Protector" (Aquaman, Batman & Robin) / "Stowaways" (Wonder Twins) / "The Ghost" (Super Friends) / "Rampage" (Superman, Green Lantern) / with bumpers: "Safety" (Superman) / "De-Coder" (Batman & Robin) / "Craft" (Wonder Woman)

Video & Audio

There's not a lick of difference in transfer quality between this set and the previous batch. As I said then, the show doesn't hide its age but holds up surprisingly well, looking about as solid as it did when it first aired, maybe even a bit better. Grain is tolerable, as is such issues as a soft image and slightly dull colors, which can be blamed on the source material itself. Presented in the original 1.33:1 broadcast format.

The soundtrack is a simple Dolby mono, preserving the original cheap-but-passable sound of the era. Optional English SDH and French subtitles are offered.

Extras

As mentioned at the top of this review, our only real extra is a playful study of Zan and Jayna. "The Wonder Twins Phenomenon" (12:08; 1.33:1 full frame) asks superhero experts, animators, even a couple folks from G4's "Attack of the Show" to giggle about the goofiness behind the Twins. It's all in good fun and never gets mean.

Trailers for "The Smurfs" and "Challenge of the Superfriends" are also included.

An anti-piracy PSA (darn six year olds and their piracy!) plays as Disc One loads. (Zan and Jayna would tell us not to pirate a movie, but they wouldn't know what the hell that meant. But, hey, don't jaywalk, kids!)

A preview for the upcoming "Wonder Woman" direct-to-video animated feature plays as Disc Two loads.

Final Thoughts

All that Wonder Twins grumbling for nothing. This set's still Recommended for the same reasons the first one was: there's a whole heap of entertainment packed tightly into every hour. Best of all, you can skip over the Twins' lectures and go straight to learning magic tricks from Wonder Woman. Nifty!
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