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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Archie's Funhouse -The Complete Series
Archie's Funhouse -The Complete Series
Other // Unrated // March 4, 2008
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted February 12, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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I must be honest and express just the smallest twinge of disappointment at getting Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series, because, in my haste at looking at this title on my review list, I assumed this was just The Archie Show, the first CBS animated incarnation of the legendary Bob Montana characters that premiered in 1968. Once the first disc was in, however, this particular Archie's Funhouse came flooding back to me. Although not my favorite animated version of the iconic residents of Riverdale, Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series still provides plenty of nostalgic payback for fans from my generation, as well as a whole slew of songs from that "anonymous" pop group, The Archies.

As an unabashed fan of Archie Comics when I was a kid, naturally, the seemingly endless reruns and reused, re-arranged versions of Filmation Studio's various Archie animated series were required Saturday morning viewing in the early-to-mid 1970s. Archie's Funhouse was the third go-around for CBS's and Filmation's Archie franchise, replacing 1969-1970's The Archie Comedy Hour, which was a compilation of old 1968 The Archie Show reruns with new Sabrina, the Teenage Witch animated segments added. Archie's Funhouse went in a new direction for the 1970-1971 season, ditching the continuity of sitcom-like narrative stories in the earlier two seasons, in favor of a musical comedy variety format. Aping NBC's monster hit Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Archie and the gang would now appear on a live-action stage, in front of a filmed live audience of kids, and tell jokes and sing songs (about three per episode), while short skits and blackout sketches featuring the gang filled out the hour. Reaction shots of the kids laughing or singing along were interspersed throughout the show, creating "excitement" at home for little viewers who thought there was a real party going on at Archie's Funhouse (don't you wonder what they showed those kids at that theater, to get them so crazed?).

I would guess that Archie's Funhouse wasn't a favorite of mine back in '71 (and I was already a dedicated TV viewer at 6-years-old) as much for its competition at that time slot, as for its format change. Airing at the primo 11:00am slot (breakfast done, bed made, room straightened up, and waiting for noon when your parents said it was okay to go bother other kids at their houses), Archie's Funhouse was directly across from must see H.R. Pufnstuf on NBC and Hot Wheels on ABC. And remember, back in television's Stone Age, "channel surfing" was a big no-no ("Hey, you're gonna ruin my set! Quit flipping that dial!" as the old man would say), so you tended to stay on one network. And both NBC and ABC had strong line-ups that morning, including The Heckle and Jeckle Show, Woody Woodpecker, The Bugaloos, The Further Adventures of Dr. Dolittle, and the classic The Pink Panther Show on NBC, and the sublime Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, and the fun, weird British import Here Come the Double Deckers on ABC. How the hell were kids supposed to pick from so many cool choices?

As for the format change, well...maybe I thought the jokes were funny when I was six. My five-year-old daughter thought they were funny (especially if a pie was thrown after the punchline, or somebody fell down), but critically, she didn't want to watch another episode after viewing the first. Animated in the distinctive Filmation Studios house style that every kid from the '70s will instantly recognize, Archie's Funhouse has a myriad number of quick, short bursts of psychedelic images, sometimes with the Archie gang superimposed over them, sometimes just on their own, that should remind a lot of kids of why their older brothers and sisters bothered watching this show, too. It's a weird mix, though; the straight-laced kids from Riverdale (check out Archie's cool early sixties outfit, including turtleneck under the Pendleton, high-rise chinos and penny loafers) rocking out in front of slithering, throbbing moire-effects psychedelia. Still, it's all candy-coated looking today, and young kids certainly (hopefully) won't get the subtext implied in these images.

As for the comedy, watching Archie's Funhouse today, I can appreciate the corny one-liners for what they are, particularly when viewed in the light of traditional American humor. But honestly, after just a couple of episodes, the groans become more and more labored, and the farcical situations more simplified and puerile. I've read where writers from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In were supposedly brought in to write for Archie's Funhouse, but I didn't see any indication of such on the episodes themselves, nor on IMDB. Cartoon vet Bob Ogle is credited for the writing, but unfortunately, many of the jokes fall completely flat ("Reggie, tell us about The Battle of Bunker Hill." "It wasn't on the level," or "I'm the kind of girl you look at twice." "Yeah, the first time you don't believe it."). I can understand the temptation to want to mint the success that NBC was having with Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, but I'm not sure the Archie gang is best suited to this kind of frenetic blackout-sketch comedy. It's one thing to have Goldie Hawn in a bikini delivering those old groaners, but Betty and Veronica?

What is nice about Archie's Funhouse are the fun collection of songs from The Archies singing group. Founded by The Monkees impresario Don Kirshner in 1968, The Archies were a group of top-flight studio musicians, fronted by vocals from Ron Dante and Toni Wine (and later Donna Marie and Merle Miller) who created the number one best-selling single of 1969, Sugar, Sugar (which ironically, was supposed to be a Monkees, who rejected it for being too bubble gum pop). For the "Giant Jukebox" segments of Archie's Funhouse, Neil Goldberg was brought in to write over thirty Archie songs for the series, all of which are included here on this set (please see "Extras" below for more detailed information). Fans of the group (and come on; you know you love Sugar, Sugar, don't you?) will no doubt enjoy this element of Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series more than the actual show.

Here are the 16, twenty-minute episodes of Classic Media's three-disc box set, Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series. Now, my recollection of the show was that it was one hour (that's certainly the time period that it occupied on CBS's schedule). Later, the show was trimmed to one-half hour for Sunday morning broadcast in 1972. I don't have a photographic memory of a show I saw when I was six, 36 years ago. I can't say what has been cut from these episodes to make them run, on average, only about 20 minutes each. Were two combined to make a one-hour episode? Were other elements included, that have now been removed when the series was syndicated? Or are these the half-hour versions from 1972? I can't say. But I'm sure there are Archie fanatics out there who might know, so email me and I'll update the review:

DISC ONE

Ice Block/Circus Act
Animal Antics/Roller Rink
Magic Reggie/Surf's Up
Snowball Skating/Bumsteer's Annual Rodeo
Ethel's Rocket/Mr. Weatherby's Camping Corner
Chef's Kitchen/Professor's Magical Tricks
Fayure/Nature Photography, Trashman/Baseball

DISC TWO

Harp/Painting Archie
Flying Fools/Birthday Dinner
Mind Reading/Fast Bucks
Space Spectacular/Fresh Air
Fishing Trip/Mr. Factory
Jungle Doctor/Lake
All Tied Up/Tennis Courts
Really Big Caesar/Acrobats

The DVD:

The Video:
The full screen, 1.33:1 video transfer for Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series looks quite nice, even though there are plenty of screen anomalies, including scratches and dirt specks. Overall, though, with the exception of isolated episodes that look like they were garnered from VHS sources, the colors are bright and the picture reasonably sharp. Not bad at all.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English audio track is big, fat mono, which accurately represents how the series was originally broadcast. Too bad, though, we couldn't get a nice stereo upgrade.

The Extras:
On each disc, you can choose to see all the "Giant Jukebox" music videos separately. Unfortunately, there's not a "Play All" option, so if you want to hear more than one Archies song, you have to navigate the menu each and every time. Dumb. Songs on Disc One include: Love Vibrations, Falling in Love is Fun, Puppet on a String, The Ways I Love You, Laughing Song, Monkey See, Monkey Do, Lucky Me, Comes the Sun, Sweet Saturday Night, Hey Little One, Mr. Factory, Loveland, Anyone Can Be Anything, The Lonely Cricket, Sunshine, Honey, and Dance. Also included on Disc one is the music video for The Archies' biggest hit, Sugar, Sugar.

On Disc Two, "Giant Jukebox" songs include: Young Love, Rowboat Ride, Love Went Round, Somebody Like You, Candy Kisses, Oh Sweet Susie, Don't Run from Love, Jungle George, Looks That Say I Love You, La La La La Love, We're One Big Family, Ballad of 51st Street Park, The Big Boat, Don't Let It Get You Down, Little by Little, and My Singing Guitar. As well, there's a music video for Jingle Jangle.

On Disc Three, bonus episodes of The Archie Comedy Hour are included, yet they're not hour long; they run about 18:45, on average. Episodes include: Coke Machine/Shadow Boxing, Photo Machine/Elevator, Jughead Pulls Fire-Hose/Cannon, Paint Your Car/Breaking Car, Piano Movers/Light Shows, and Telephone/Door, Seesaw/Drive-In. There's also a TV special, Archie and His New Pals, which runs 24:22, included here, and for The Archies fans, there's a new featurette, Ron Dante: The Voice of The Archies, running 26:26, that features an interview with Ron Dante.

Final Thoughts:
Not my favorite incarnation of the Filmation Archie franchise, Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series still will be fun for fans who grew up on it, with plenty of bonus features included here on this attractively packaged collection. I recommend Archie's Funhouse: The Complete Series.


Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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