The above are just some of the shows that feature on a short list of animated TV shows that folks of “my generation” hold in high regard. Growing up in the ’80s or ’90s was a golden age for any fan of cartoons, and seemingly every channel on the tube was getting into the act. If you planned efficiently, a Saturday morning could be filed with hours of awesome cartoons (and then an episode of California Dreams), showcasing some of the most original comedy seen on television in decades.
Better yet, we saw a plethora of cartoon adaptations hit the airwaves, based on some of our favorite movies, comic books, TV shows, and video games. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (which is a vastly underrated ‘toon, in my opinion), The Tick, The Maxx, The Real Ghostbusters, all shining examples of cartoon adaptations gone right. (And speaking of cartoons we love, be sure to check out the Futurama finale tonight!)
However… just like in life, they can’t all be winners. Here is a top 10 list (in NO ranking order) of the strangest cartoon adaptations that probably should have never been.
Nostalgia is 20/20.
Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour
In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Hanna-Barbera was cranking out cartoons like nobody’s business, but they should have stayed away from Garry Marshall adaptations. Sure, we all love the sitcoms these cartoons are based on, but other than Mork and Mindy, these shows are definitely not suited to cartoon adaptations. Be amazed at the animated hijinks of a guy in a leather jacket who hangs out at a diner! Regale in the adventures of two working women in their ’30s! And though Mork may not be the most graceful of cartoons, there’s nothing better than Robin Williams and a pink alien dog thing.
Back to the Future
Here’s the problem with adaptations of beloved properties; nostalgia kicks in and clouds the mind. Take this Back to the Future cartoon from the early ’90s: It’s got Doc Brown, The Delorean, and that kicking theme music. Your brain goes “wait, I like this!,” but I promise you that if you override that initial burst of childhood joy, what you’ll find is a pretty joyless and standard ’90s kids cartoon. This may be an odd complaint, but I also find this cartoon way too “cartoony” in its visual style. It’s lil’ Marty McFly! Pass.
“Kids love cartoons. Kids love sports. They should have a baby!” That’s an approximation of a sentence that was likely uttered in a Hollywood office, sometime back in 1990. Combine Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson, a wacky sci-fi crime fighting concept, and one of the worst theme songs I’ve ever heard, and you’ve got ProStars, a show that aired for a glorious 3 months back in 1991. If anything, this show taught a would-be generation of geeks to dislike sports from an early age… and I’m actually cool with that.
“He was given magical shoes, from a hip-hop Motown dude”. That sentence says it all. If you like ’80s superstar M.C Hammer and magical dancing shoes, have we got a show for you. Produced at the height of Hammer’s very short-lived fame, Hammerman was such a stretch that even as a small kid, you kind of figured out you were being pandered to. There is some alternate universe where Hammerman has been airing for 20 years, and I’m very glad I don’t live in said alternate Hammerverse.
Look, I LOVE Godzilla. Unapologetically. I’m all about the Kaiju. That being said, a show which could have been one of the more bad-ass cartoons to air, wound up being… not that. Godzilla? Awesome. A team of scientists who travel with him? Sure. A pretty awesome theme song? Yep. Just where does this show go wrong, then? One word: Godzuki. The Scrappy Doo of the monster set, Godzuki takes this show from one that could have been pretty damn cool, to… it’s Godzuki, you guys.
It’s your age-old tale: a group of shipwrecked weirdos manage to build a rocket ship made out of bamboo, journey into outer space, and then inevitably crash-land onto a strange alien planet. If that sounds interesting to you, Gilligan’s Planet is your jump-off. And, look, the actual cast provides the voices, making the whole endeavor even that much more depressing. Space coconuts? I’m pretty sure.
It’s Punky Brewster
Like Gilligan’s Planet, the Punky Brewster cartoon takes a beloved sitcom and adds an “interesting” spin to it. This time, our titular orphan with the heart of gold doesn’t find herself dealing with bullies at school or feelings of inadequacy; no, in this show, Punky finds a magical secret village made up of “leprechaun gophers,” and then… look guys, it’s about an orphan and her magical gopher friend. ‘Nuff said.
Rambo: The Force of Freedom
Take one of American cinema’s most infamous killing machines, mix him with a mid ’80s animation style, remove the killing, and you’ve got Rambo: The Force of Freedom. While the show retains really none of the elements from the films on which it’s based (save the name and the headband), the truly crazy thing about this cartoon was the complete lack of death. Yes, it’s a kids’ cartoon, I get it; but why bring Rambo to Saturday mornings if you’re not going to have him do any Rambo stuff?
The Partridge Family: 2200 AD
Meet George, his wife Judy, daughter Jane, and Danny Bonaduce? Because things weren’t weird enough on this list already, meet Partridge Family: 2020 AD , or The Jetsons. From the theme song, to the visual style, to the fact that this is CLEARLY A JETSONS RIPOFF, this has to be one of the more misguided and head-shakingly wrong cartoon adaptations to ever air on American TV. Love the Jetsons but hate quality writing and concepts? Well, listen to this! (Back to the Future reference. NOT the cartoon version).
The Gary Coleman Show
Hey America! You loved Gary Coleman as the adorable and yet worldly-wise preteen on Diff’rent Strokes right? Then you’ll love him as a precocious angel sent to dispel wisdom to the youth of the nation! Right? No? Why not? He’s an angel! With LITERAL WINGS and a halo and the whole deal. It’s everything you loved about him to begin with, no? Seriously?