Friday, May 15, 2020

This Day in TV History: Fantastic Funnies on CBS

40 years ago today, CBS led off its Thursday night with Fantastic Funnies, a charming look at the comic strips.

Why did CBS do this special? I don't know. But it seems like back then, networks did that more often: just run specials on interesting topics for prime-time programming.  Loni Anderson, who would voice Blondie in a 1987 animated special, is an enthusiastic host, and she puts in the work, doing multiple hair style and wardrobe costumes to introduce each segment. Often her look is designed to match the particular strip she introduces.

The special, co-produced by longtime Peanuts animation figure Bill Melendez, uses some interesting techniques to adapt a print medium for a TV special. There are multiple animated segments, for one thing, including the screen debut of Marmaduke. We see cool footage of the cartoonists talking about and, even better, drawing their characters.


 Perhaps the biggest takeaway, though, is the sheer amount of music in this special. There are original songs like a musical video about reading "the funnies." There is a number from the stage play Annie. Anderson herself even sings various theme songs associated with comic strip characters like Popeye.

There is even a segment from CBS show WKRP  with Johnny Fever reading Flash Gordon during a Cincinnati newspaper strike. A little something for everyone! I am not sure it's the most coherent special, but it sure is entertaining and an outstanding watch for any comic strip fan.


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