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Friday, June 30, 2017

'Clue Club' DVD: That '70s Saturday Morning Hanna-Barbera Cop Show


Warner Prime reissuing 60th anniversary DVD sets of classic Hanna-Barbera animated series, such as "The Flintsones" and "Scooby-Doo" to name two items in an enormous catalog, makes this a good time to share thoughts on the Warner Archive 16-episode 2-disc release of the 1976 HB Saturday morning series "Clue Club." The teen detectives and their talking dogs solving the crimes of costumed villains make the show a "Scooby clone," the funky theme and graphics of the opening credits and the regular use of a CB radio and other real-life tech. of the era make it an animated '70s cop show. The lack of bubble gum music accompanying the chase scenes is only a minor disappointment.

The members of the titular youth organization are studly leader Larry (Fred), pretty (oh so '70s) girl Pepper (Daphne), wimpy cowardly D.D, (Shaggy), 13 year-old tech whiz/researcher Dotty (Velma), foolishly stupid dog Woofer (brains of Scooby-Dumb with the arrogance of Scrappy-Doo) and loyal everydog Wimper (Scrappy-Doo minus the cocaine). Their cases come to them either through being at the right (or the wrong) place at the right (or the wrong) time, the nefarious deed involving a friend or family member, or the adults who typically handle this sort of thing being stumped to the extent of calling in these meddling kids.

The pilot "Club" episode is representative of the series. The gang testing new surveillance gear prompting an investigation into a printing press running should immediately clue (pun intended) anyone over the age of 10 that this plot revolves around a counterfeiting operation; villains dressed as a Viking and a pirate menace our heroes in an effort to thwart reaching that conclusion. Of course, each revealed clue points to a different suspect until the gang fingers the bad guy whom most viewers can deduce literally is standing around waiting to be caught. The fun in this (and every episode in this series and similar programs) is the journey.

Other early outings have an even easier to figure out heist and a kidnapping by a bad guy who gives himself away at the outset. A favorite equally deducible mystery revolves around a heavy safe essentially disappearing from under the noses of our crime-solvers. Fun moments in this one include a feisty lobster and an alien who resembles Big Foot.

An awesome moment comes in the form of Woofer and Wimper paying homage to the Steinbeck novel "Of Mice and Men." The dogs are lazing in the grass when Wimper asks his leader to tell him how things are going to be one day. Woofer responds with images of a dog Utopia.

Deduction related to the rationale behind dumbing down "Club" relates to the strategy revolving around Scooby. The best brains of the era at Hanna-Barbera come up with "The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which includes an epic "Josie and the Pussycats" crossover, out of a realization that Scooby fans are a little older and can handle slightly more mature story lines. This seems to lead to develop "Club" to handle the Saturday morning needs of the younger siblings of the true Scooby generation. At the same time, the strong Hanna-Barbera elements makes "Club" fun for kids of all ages.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Club" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.