Almost as soon as they were released last month, six Rocky and Bullwinkle videocassettes culled from TV's early-'60s animated series shot to the top of the best-seller charts. The response to these pun-filled, lightning-paced satirical cartoons about a flying squirrel and his pal, a dim-witted moose, is sweet vindication for producer Benjamin Brady Magliano, who spent four years convincing PBS to finance a documentary about the show's creation. Magliano's Of Moose and Men: The Rocky & Bullwinkle Story airs March 16 from 8 to 9 p.m. ''It's the greatest of ironies that we're hitting the air at the same time,'' he says. ''We were on totally separate tracks.''
Before interviewing some of the original Bullwinkle Show's surviving cast members (creators Jay Ward and Bill Scott died in the '80s), Magliano had expected them to confirm ''stories I'd always heard of wild antics and ad-libbing a real crazy environment'' at Ward's studio. But that fairy tale was fractured when he spoke with William Conrad, Bullwinkle's narrator, and June Foray, the voice of Rocky. ''I found out,'' Magliano says, ''that once Jay and Bill okayed a script, no one was allowed to change anything. All the madness went into the writing. Then method took over.''
Chris Hayward, who drafted many Bullwinkle segments and went on to coproduce Barney Miller, offers fond reminiscences in the PBS tribute. Now 64, Hayward told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY that the Rocky-Bullwinkle vocal ensemble's rapid-fire line readings stemmed partly from their respect for his prose. ''If a script ran long,'' he recalls, ''they would just rush it up rather than take something out.'' While Hayward hasn't watched any of the new video compilations, he was disappointed to hear that the one tape showcasing Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right, his favorite character, isn't selling as briskly as the others. ''Very shortly it'll be No. 1,'' he says, vowing to buy copies en masse. ''I wrote most of the Dudleys. I may not be getting any [residual] money from the cassette, but there is pride.''