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Monday, July 2, 2012

'The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan:' 'Eight is Enough' Meets 'Scooby Doo'

The early '70s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning series "The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan" falls in the Rodney Dangerfield of good cartoon programs that don't get no respect. Hopefully the recent DVD release of "Chan" as part of Warner Brothers Archive Collection will help rectify that injustice.

On the surface, "The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan" is simply a Hanna-Barbera clone of the highly popular "Scooby-Doo."  One significant difference is that the villains in "Chan" are run-of-the-mill, albeit relatively clever, criminals whose ambitions are generally limited to one big heist.

Most of the rubber masks in "Chan" belong to "Number 2" teen son self-proclaimed master of disguise Stanley. Stanley is also well known for being the voice of the series' catch-phrase "wham-bam - we're in a jam."

Stanley is joined by his nine siblings and their father, fictional detective Charlie Chan. Charlie Chan was created in 1919 and was the main character in a long series of light-hearted Depression-era mystery films.

Digging just below the surface shows that "Chan" is more than an example of what Warner Brothers describes as "Hanna-Barbera's winning formula" of  "[meddling] kids, mysteries, [very cute] canine, van." It is the first depiction of Charlie Chan by an Asian-American. Keye Luke, who played "Number One Son" in earlier live-action "Chan" films.

Other great actors who provided voices included Jodie Foster and future "Quincy" star Roberto Ito.

Further, the Chan kids were typical American kids and lacked any of the horrible Asian stereotypes that survived even into '60s animation. They, and Charlie, dressed like everyone else. Everyone also had good teeth, and any accents were realistic.

The kids, who had a "Josie and the Pussycats" style bubblegum rock band, even loved to rock-and-roll and hot dogs made them lose control. What crazy groups of pairs.

The episodes themselves were good as well; a typical offering had a theft occurring within the first few minutes and the kids splitting up to engage in hi-jinks to capture the bad guys. 

Almost inevitably, each group of Chan kids would separately pursue different suspects and ultimately foul up the efforts of their siblings. Charlie showed up to solve the mystery and apologize for the mayhem that his offspring caused.

The spoiler alert is that the meddling kids, and their little dog too, who were always willin' did help catch that villain.

The show's fatal flaw seemed to be its common characteristic with the much more successful live-action '70s show "Eight is Enough." There just were too many kids in both series. 

Despite being a colossal sofa spud, I could only think of the names of  three of the six Bradford girls from "Eight." I can also picture most of them but have no clue which one wanted to a doctor, which one wanted to be an actress, and who was the tomboy.

Even having just watched eight "Chan" episodes, I do not know every kids' name or which girl was Susie and which one was Nancy. I could not even begin to guess which boy was Flip and who was Alan. I do know that Diegoesque spunky six-year-old Scooter rocks.

Further, having ten "Chan" kids did not add much to the show. Six would have been fine.

It is even sadder that the folks at Hanna-Barbera did not develop a "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" style spinoff for Stanley and his slightly older brother Henry.

Stanley and Henry were the primary focus of "Chan" anyway and were enough of a Laurel and Hardy team that Henry should have been named Ollie. They were simply nice-looking typical suburban teen boys of the '70s minus the drug use.

Seeing Henry and Stanley go off to college and get involved in mystery and drama ala "Veronica Mars" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" would have kept me glued to my parents' ginormous two-ton 25" color console every Saturday morning.

Anyone with thoughts or questions regarding "Chan" is welcome to email me.