TV Article

The Morning Line

Network-TV shows for children -- ''Darwing Duck,'' ''Yo, Yogi!,'' and ''Where's Waldo'' are some of the programs broadcasted on Saturday

Network-TV shows for children

Here's a quick consumer guide to the new Saturday-morning kids' shows on the four major television networks (a guide to syndicated and cable-TV programs will follow next week). And believe me, you need a guide, because most of this season's Saturday shows feature poor animation and witless storytelling. Other trends: extensive use of hip-hop music and the presence of real celebrities in each week's opening minutes to introduce cartoon versions of themselves. Now more than ever, Saturdays are no time to leave kids glued to the television for the entire morning.

Chip & Pepper's Cartoon Madness
NBC swears that this flesh-and- blood comedy team is popular in its native Canada; to Americans, these blond, long-haired, surfer-dude twins will seem like a nightmarish cross between movie dudes Bill and Ted and the pop duo Nelson. The show itself? Chip and Pepper yell idiocies and in-troduce old cartoons. Downgraded because C&P also pop up throughout NBC's Saturday-morning schedule to introduce the rest of the network's awful new shows. F

Land of the Lost
A revival of a show that's been on and off the air a number of times since 1974. It's about a contemporary family that falls through a crack in the earth and ends up in a land where dinosaurs still live. Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) plays the dad this time around; series creators Sid and Marty Krofft supply the bad Japanese-monster-movie dinosaurs. D

Mother Goose and Grim
The animation in this show captures the loony exaggeration of Mike Peters' newspaper comic strip of the same name, but lacks the strip's offbeat sarcasm. Most of the time, Mother Goose just cackles and gasps, watching her perennially ravenous dog Grimm pursue food and any cat that crosses his path. C-

Yo, Yogi!
Updated versions of Hanna-Barbera characters including Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. Yogi wears hip items like pump sneakers, and everyone hangs out in the newly opened Jellystone Mall. Oh, great — let's encourage kids to be mall rats. D

Darwing Duck
The Disney folks, who've brought you such solid recent TV efforts as DuckTales and Tale Spin, try their luck at a superhero spoof, with middling results. Drake Mallard is a single parent to his 9-year-old adopted daughter, Gosalyn. When trouble arises, Drake becomes Darkwing Duck, a masked smart aleck whose rallying cry is a dismaying paraphrase of — of all people — Arsenio Hall: ''Let's get dangerous!'' screams the superduck.

Disney-quality animation, with its rich colors and detailed movements, immediately places Darkwing a notch above most TV cartoons. But, overloaded with bird puns and parodies of comic-book cliches (''I am the scouring pad that scrubs the stains of crime!''), Darkwing seems to be trying to wink at adults while entertaining children.It will, instead, probably just bore both groups. C

Prostars
Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Bo Jackson introduce cartoon versions of themselves, idealized athletes who travel the world to help kids in trouble. The animation is so poor that the heroes' stiff mouth movements don't come close to matching the banal dia-logue. It's like watching a badly dubbed foreign film. These pros should be ashamed. D-

Hammerman
A sloppy, poorly thought-out effort to cash in on the popularity of rapper M.C. Hammer, Hammerman is a paradox: so dumb it's complicated. Hammer himself introduces and provides the voice for the animated character Stanley Kirk Burrell — Hammer's real name. Stanley is a nice young fellow who owns a pair of magic talking shoes; whenever anyone is in trouble, Stanley slips on the inces-santly yammering footwear and turns into Hammerman, a superhero whose abilities have something to do with harnessing the power of music to defeat enemies, but honestly, neither I nor my children could figure it all out. Sometimes the drawing in this show is so poorly detailed that the figures are unrecognizable — it's inadvertent surrealism. D-

Wishkid Starring Macaulay Culkin
The star of Home Alone introduces and serves as the voice for cartoons about Nick McClary, a little boy who gets whatever he wishes for when he puts on a magic baseball glove — ''but only once a week,'' Culkin tells us over the opening credits. The series features TV's most depressing depiction of parents: Dad's an investigative reporter, Mom's a real estate agent; neither has any time to take care of Nick and his baby sister. That's why Nick has to wish so much — to escape from his otherwise lonely life. Sheesh. D-

The Pirates of Dark Water
Lush, realistic animation and complex, coherent storytelling-a quest tale in the tradition of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings — make Pirates the classiest new cartoon show on the networks. Kids will get caught up in the seagoing adventures of the teenage Ren as he travels the world, battling grungy pirates and seeking his goal: the so-called Thirteen Treasures of Rule. A-

Spacecats
A mixture of puppets and animation centering around three ''extraterrestrial feline crime fighters'' — that is, a trio of badly drawn outer-space cats named Tom, Scratch, and Sniff. How low is the humor? Charles Nelson Reilly pops up as the only human character, a disembodied head known as the Disembodied Omnipotent Ruler of Cats, ''but you can call me D.O.R.C.'' Turn it off. D-

Back to the Future
Best use of celebrity intros: Christopher Lloyd — Doc in the Future films — offers highly amusing, stream-of-consciousness babble to set up the day's cartoon. Lloyd and Michael J. Fox supply the voices for their animated characters. Fox's Marty McFly is the rock-guitar-playing hero, zipping through time and space, and the debut show actually conveyed good hard facts about the Civil War. B+

Where's Waldo
A reasonably imaginative adaptation of Martin Handford's best-selling children's books, Where's Waldo? has the good sense to retain Handford's trademark: Twice during each show, a lively scene teeming with details freezes on the screen, and you have to find the figure of Waldo hidden in some unobtrusive spot. The rest of the time, Waldo plays the hero in a series of tepid adventures whose most attractive aspect is a wacky, Rocky and Bullwinkle-style voice-over narration. B-

Little Shop
Based on the Little Shop of Horrors movies, this cartoon features the adventures of, as the Fox network says, a ''nerdy teenager'' and his ''outrageous rapping plant.'' Not outrageous enough, and overloaded with dull messages: In one episode, our nerd, Seymour, learns that boys can take home-economics classes and not be sissies. C-

Taz-Mania
Intriguing idea: Fox has taken an obscure Warner Bros. cartoon character — a dithering Tasmanian devil named Taz — and built a series around him. Dumb idea: They gave him a trite sitcom- style family and turned him into a wacky teenage Tasmanian maniac. D

Originally posted Oct 04, 1991 Published in issue #86 Oct 04, 1991 Order article reprints