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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Animals > Adventure > Invention > Education > Superhero > Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales – The Complete Collection (1963) + Underdog – Complete Collector’s Edition (1964/Shout! Factory DVD Sets)

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales – The Complete Collection (1963) + Underdog – Complete Collector’s Edition (1964/Shout! Factory DVD Sets)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Episodes: B

 

 

Two of the most cherished animated series of the 1960s have finally arrived on DVD.  What would seem like an odd production process (by today’s standards) both Tennessee Tuxedo and Underdog (though on different networks) were mainly produced by Total Television and sponsored by General Mills [yes, the cereal company].  In the end, what children across the world received were two great series that were cleverly disguised parodies with crisp, clean, creative animation.

 

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales

The voice of late great Don Adams was Tennessee Tuxedo, the loveable, wise cracking penguin.  Somewhat reminiscent of his character Maxwell Smart from the series Get Smart, Don Adams was what made the character of Tennessee Tuxedo work so well.  With his oddly dimwitted Walrus partner, Chumley, by his side Tennessee Tuxedo set out to improve the quality of life for all animals at the Megalopolis Zoo.  Most of the episodes involved Chumley, Tennessee, and their intelligent friend Phineas J. Whoopee (voice of Larry Starch) scheming against zoo keeper Stanley Livingston.

 

Along the way we get to meet a slue of Tennessee’s friends including Baldy Eagle and Yakkety Yak (both voiced by Kenny Delmar), as well as some arch rivals [outside of Stanley] who include Jerboa Jump the Kangaroo Rat (voiced by Bradley Bolke who also voices Chumley) and his partner Tiger Tornado (again Kenny Delmar).  Tennessee’s schemes would inevitably drag Chumley along for the ride as they escape the zoo and release their chaos on the outside world.  If they were plotting against Stanley, escaping the zoo, or outwitting worthy foes Tennessee would fill his time problem solving like when Chumley has a toothache and other veiled attempts at teaching children viewers a lesson.

 

The series is crazy entertaining and holds up nicely nearly 50 years after originally airing.  Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales had a 70 episode run that is housed in completion here in a 6-DVD set.  Running from 1963-1966 the series only truly has two seasons, but certainly two great ones.

 

Underdog

As previously stated, Underdog was created by the same company that made Tennessee Tuxedo; trouble is Underdog does not hold up nearly as well.  What started as a brilliant concept as a tongue in cheek look at the world of superheroes (most specifically Superman) quickly went down hill as each passing episode was the same as the last.

 

The series premiered in 1964 and ran for a total of 124 episodes (all in this set); continuing its life in syndication until 1973.  The premise of Underdog was that a normal ‘shoeshine’ boy would transform into his alter ego Underdog whenever his love Polly Purebred was in trouble.  Wally Cox was the voice behind Underdog and brought the character to life.  Underdog was very much like Superman in that when trouble would arise he would dart into a telephone booth (do kids know what those are anymore?) and transform.  It wasn’t until episode ten (10) of the series that it is revealed that Underdog has a ‘special pill’ in the ring that he wears, ultimately holding the secret to his powers.  In its original airing, Underdog referred to the pill as his ‘Underdog Super Energy Pill” uttering the words “The Secret Compartment of my Ring I Fill; With Underdog Super Energy Pill.”  In syndication the ‘energy pill’ concept was completely taken out and (oddly) here in this set they changed “energy” to “vitamin.”  My only guess is that they worried children would get hooked on Red Bull or worse illicit drugs; but in reality…how many small children are buying this set?

 

I wish Underdog held up better as I have fond memories of the series.  I thought the Disney live action film totally destroyed the original concept, but looking back at the episodes now…I don’t think they had much to work with.  As previously mentioned, the original concept soared, but the production company (knowing their audience) didn’t put much effort in after a while and it was the same thing time and time again.

 

I am not saying the series wasn’t creative.  The series has brilliant villains and heroes, but the parody angle falls flat quick.

 

Underdog is worth a revisit and definitely a must have for any classic cartoon collector as Underdog battles the city’s most ruthless evils.

 

The technical features on both Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales and Underdog are about the same and Shout Factory has done the best job they can with the material provided to them.  The picture quality on both sets varies from good to sketchy as Shout! Factory had to use a variety of sources to put the sets together.  Some are obvious old VHS copies and some are original production copies; both being extremely noticeable.  Little to no restoration work was done and colors can be muted, along with grain/debris often flying by during viewing.  Both series are hit or miss when it comes to the ‘full’ episode being present; buy this I mean since they had to use many sources to put this set together, sometimes we are reviewing syndicated/edited versions.  Who knows if we will ever see the original aired episodes?  Both are in their original Full Frame format.  The sound on both is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that gets the job done, but comes mostly from the front without any frills.

 

The extras on each set are as follows:

 

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales

  • Featurette “Tennessee Tuxedo Never Fails”
    • Get a chance to hear one of the several original openings the series had
  • Commentaries with voice actors Larry Storch and Bradley Bolke, Co-Creator Buck Biggers and Author Mark Arnold (Created and Produced by Total Television Productions)

 

Underdog

  • Bonus Cartoons: Tooter Turtle and The Hunter
  • Featurette “There’s No Need to Fear…Underdog is Here”
  • Commentaries with Writer/Producer/Co-Creator W. Watts Biggers, Voice Actor George S. Irving, Producer Treadwell Covington, Animation Historian Mark Arnold and More.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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