Final Word On Underdog

Underdog is the name of an anthropomorphic cartoon dog and I wrote a post about Underdog when the Daily Prompt was mighty (  Underdog was a canine parody of Superman which debuted on NBC in 1964 and moved to CBS in 1966. Usually, each half-hour episode consisted of two chapters of a four-part Underdog story, separated by an unrelated TTV Total TeleVision short (something to make the viewers stick around like Tennessee Tuxedo And His Tales, Go Go Gophers or Klondike Kat).  When the city is in trouble, humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy turns into his alter ego Underdog, so he can battle crime and stop a series of villains, and whenever his girlfriend TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebred a lipstick-wearing pooch in a tight skirt and heels found herself in danger, no one but Underdog could save the day!

Underdog was born because General Mills was seeking a new cartoon character to sell breakfast cereal to children.  Shoeshine Boy a meek alter ego became Underdog after dashing into the nearest phone booth and with an explosion that would always destroy the booth he emerged in his heroic costume.  This was similar to the way Clark Kent became Superman, but Superman unless he was near Kryptonite had natural powers and Underdog got his super strength and flying abilities by eating a super-energy pill that was usually hidden in a secret compartment of his ring.  For some unexplained reason, Underdog always spoke in rhyme and he had a habit of entering through a wall when a door was available.  When Underdog flies overhead, gawking citizens cry, “It’s a plane, it’s a bird … it’s a frog,” to which the rhyming Underdog always replied, “Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It’s just little old me, Underdog.”

The Underdog cartoon was filled with every imaginable stereotype from the ‘60s, from helpless heroines to foreign baddies, as well as typical cartoon violence of the era (characters shooting cannons at each other, and things like that).  Many villains did their worst on Underdog, but the most recurring were Simon Bar Sinister, who used the phrase “Simon Says” when performing a dastardly deed, and Riff Raff the wolf, a typical gangster type.  His foes the mad scientist Dr. Simon Bar Sinister and his henchman, Cad Lackey (voice caricatures of Lionel Barrymore and Humphrey Bogart), along with the lupine crime boss Riff Raff (based on George Raft) were the bad guys that forced the heroic pooch Underdog to save the day.  Because of all the violence this show was rated for 5 year olds and up.  The Super Energy Vitamin Pill, was eventually edited out from the cartoons as the producers didn’t want to glorify drug use.

Wally Cox was the star of the show and he brought the rhyming Underdog to life.  Wally Cox, was condemned to a career playing mild-mannered milquetoasts, and Underdog, who even at full power, was a pipsqueak, as his costume was always hanging loose as if it was cut for muscles that he never had.  This let him battle villains without ever seeming less than sweet.

12 thoughts on “Final Word On Underdog

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