Something had me strolling down memory lane today after my morning shower.
For some reason, Jabberjaw came to mind. Yeah, that’s right, the talking shark who played the drums and solved crimes with his human friends. What made me think of him, I don’t know.
That was just one of a hundred cartoons that I saw on the Cartoon Express. Many a weekday evening, when I was supposed to be doing homework, I would plop down for a ride on the Cartoon Express. The USA Network cartoon block was a staple in my 1980’s childhood. I mean, I literally grew up watching this 3-hour marathon of such great animated shows by the empire known as Hanna-Barbera. He provided me with hours of laughter and goofy show ideas that ranged from a karate-wielding dog to afroed bears forever trying to escape from the zoo.
*Sigh*, nostalgia! Who can forget these characters? I know I can’t. So here’s a list of 20 Cartoon Express cartoons, in order, from my least to my favorite.
20. The Biskitts: The Biskitts were a group of tiny dogs who lived on Biskitt Island. Think of them as the canine Smurfs.
19. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: Wheelie was a personified 1974 Volkswagen beetle who had a girlfriend named Rota Ree. Not exactly a classic.
18. Grape Ape: Who can forget a gigantic purple gorilla saying “Grape Ape, Grape Ape” in a deep gravely voice?
17. Speed Buggy: This sputtering jalopy was the heart of the show, getting into adventures with his three teenage friends Tinker, Mark, and Debbie. Far more superior than Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch.
16. Monchichis: Monkeys, monkeys, everywhere!! Or at least I think they were monkeys. They lived in the trees and fought evil opponents. Think of them as the monkey-version of the Smurfs.
15. Clue Club: I wanted to be Dotty so bad, with her wicked-smart book sense. She was the brains of this crime-solving operation – and she was only 12. She constantly showed up her older brother and his friends, and even had two bloodhounds named Woofer and Whimper.
14. Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: Now he was the Original Gangsta! Who else but a bushy, yuk-mouthed brotha with a big club could hang with three fine ass ladies, Brenda, Dee Dee (the black one), and Taffy. They were always hugging on him, and helping him out of jams. And the nigga couldn’t even speak in complete sentences. Now that’s a pimp!
13. Laff-a-Lympics: This was a hodgepodge of the Hanna-Barbera toons in one show, competing in non-Olympic events, like searching for the Abominable Snowman or ostrich racing. Every week, the Really Rottens tried to outdo the Scooby-Doobies and the Yogi Yahooeys, using evil trickery to foil the other teams. But the good guys always prevailed, and the Rottens were usually in last place with zero points. *Sigh* Why can’t real life be like this?
12. Snagglepuss: When I look back on this toon about a pink tiger whose catchphrase was “Exit, stage left,” how did I not realize he was gay? I mean, he wore a bow tie and cuffs and spoke with in a sing-songy voice; he made grand gestures with his hands and always said stuff like, “Heavens to Murgatroyd.” God, my gaydar must have been broken back then. Today he could have easily been a member of the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy team.
11. Hong-Kong Fooey: “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!” Except not everyone knew that mild-mannered Penrod “Penry” Pooch, a police-station janitor by day, became a crime-fighting karate expert by jumping into a filing cabinet. As a matter of fact, he helped solve many of Sarge’s cases with his smart-allecky cat, Spot. Not bad for a dog who sounded eerily similar to Sherman Hemsley (aka George Jefferson).
10. Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch: I’m convinced these three bears were black. Look at the evidence: they were always trying to escape the “prison” called a zoo, constantly had the munchies, tried to get the other animals to riot, and one even had an Afro. You do the math!
9. The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show: This show was in the post-Flintstone days, when Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were all grown up as teenagers crazy in love. Call them the Beyonce and Jay-Z of the ‘Roc. (Bedrock, that is!)
8. Jabberjaw: Continuing from above, I remember he had this stupid cackling laugh (like yuk-yuk-yuk), and how he loved to chase the ladies. He also defeated enemies with his bumbling demeanor and his teenage friends (also members of his band The Neptunes, sans Pharell and Chad). Think of him as the “Scooby-Doo of the Sea.”
7. Pixie & Dixie and Mr. Jinx: A simple premise – two mice living in a hole in the wall, and the cat who chased them day and night. Pixie and Dixie were two male rodents, one a little bit country, the other a little bit bougie. Their nemesis was Mr. Jinx, a cat who talked like a gangsta (“I’ll smash you meeces to pieces!”) He used to crack me up with his dumb-ass ideas to eliminate the mice problem. Just like Jerry, the mice always one-upped him. Two heads are always better than one.
6. Yogi Bear: The bear who began it all. He swiped pic-a-nic baskets, menaced Ranger Smith, and had a best friend named Boo-Boo. But if Yogi was smarter than the average bear, how come he always got caught, even after Boo-Boo warned him?
5. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Fat Albert and his gang were cool dudes whose second home was a junkyard. No matter though, they still had a band and managed to impart values in just about every episode – something our black children definitely need. If Fat Albert were around today, though, he’d probably have a gastric bypass, lose 100 pounds and then have his own reality show.
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: “Watch out, cause here we come!” Who knew three orphaned chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore) would be adopted by a music-producer/bachelor named Dave and become a successful music group? Funny how that didn’t seem weird when we were growing up. (Also inspired the short-lived spin-off, The Chippettes.)
3. Smurfs: The little blue men with the white hat and tights were the most “smurferific” show on TV. I loved the way each one had his own personality. Papa Smurf was the imparter of wisdom, while smurfs named Brainy, Jokey, Vanity, Grouchy and Clumsy learned new lessons every week. Personally I loved Smurfette. Go figure! And don’t forget about Gargamel and his cat Azrael, who was always trying to capture these happy-go-luck blue people.
2. The Flintstones: Fred and Barney were hilarious. There are episodes that had me rollin’. Especially when they attempted stupid get-rich-quick schemes. And don’t think I wasn’t checking out Betty.
1. Jem: My favorite Cartoon Express show. I couldn’t wait to get home every afternoon to see Jerica Benton turn into her alter ego Jem, a pop princess (before there was even a Britney Spears) by touching her star-shaped earring. You can’t tell me you didn’t love the Jem and the Holograms, and their ever-going battle with the Misfits. Although the show did teach valuable lessons, the fashion and the music were center stage in this classic late 80s cartoon. Count yourself a true fan if you can sing at least two songs from the show.