Through it’s illustrious career of television animation, Disney would occasionally just throw something weird at us to see if it would work. Gummi Bears was such a show, literally inspired by junk food, but so was Marsupilami, Brandi and Mr.Whiskers, and Pickle and Peanut. Teamo Supremo was One Saturday Morning’s attempt, and like most of these other shows, has rightfully fallen into the annals of obscurity.
It’s about a trio of child superheroes which already sounds familiar to a show airing around the same time on Cartoon Network. Their leader, Captain Crandall, just summons two random kids, a Southern skip-roper and a Hispanic skateboarder, to join his team and they become Rope Girl and Skate Lad respectively, because the show likes to avoid originality wherever possible. Every episode is a formulaic beat-the-evil-villain story, usually without even the trope of a lesson to be learned. Teamo Supremo, as they christen themselves, as the local crime-fighters, report only to the state governor sadly voiced by Martin Mull and the chief of police embarrassingly voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray. Crandall’s mother also occasionally shows up, and he’s often helped by his creepily designed older sister, with a running joke of her wanting to be something completely different when she grows up every episode.
Unlike those other weird shows, Teamo Supremo is mostly really shallow, the kind of show where if you’ve seen one episode you’ve seen them all. Hell, if you’ve seen the Futurama episode “Less Than Hero” you’ve seen this show, as it’s essentially that but without the comedy. Though it doesn’t work, there is a method to it and the bizarre elements are evocative of something. The show is a very clear homage to Rocky and Bullwinkle, and anyone who’s watched Rocky and Bullwinkle can see that. This is most noticeable in the simplistic plots, the deadpan or casual attitudes to danger, and the pointlessness of various lines or scenes. Also the exaggerated designs of the animation and lining is just about exactly the same. The Police chief might as well be Boris and Skate Lad definitely feels like the human version of Rocky. And while there is something to admire in how stylistically close Teamo Supremo is to that show and other Jay Ward cartoons, it doesn’t make the show good, because it’s missing a lot of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s charm. Not to mention, though Rocky and Bullwinkle itself worked for its time it doesn’t entirely hold up, and the complete cutting of Jay Ward’s adult humour makes this homage even more awkward. What’s left is just a series of strange but unfunny circumstances done in an animation style that doesn’t really look good.
The hero team has no chemistry, which you’d expect considering how randomly Crandall chose his partners, and the dynamics between them are never explored. Their enemies are usually defined by one joke, and kind of harmless in the grand scheme of things. And the most irritating thing is each of the three has a nonsense catchphrase, which I get is supposed to be something of a verbal equivalent to the “BAMS!” and “POWS!” of cheesy cartoons and shows like the 60’s Batman; but they are way too repetitive, annoying, and inconsistent in when and how they’re used.
On the surface, Teamo Supremo does look like a show intended for little kids, maybe like Jungle Cubs, but I really can’t even see little kids being entertained by this. There are other shows for them even from One Saturday Morning with more colourful characters and creativity. Many of the choices for the show, even the outlandish ones, don’t make sense and serve no purpose. It’s an experiment at its core, to see if a retro cartoon style could be done in the early 2000s. But without adding much to that conceit, apart from a little bit of obnoxiousness, Teamo Supremo didn’t really find an audience, and was replaced after a year by the much better Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
What better way to end One Saturday Morning than with potentially it’s goofiest show? Fillmore! is a 70’s cop show set in a middle school, and it’s just as cheesy as that sounds. It’s a return to that Recess sense of surreality about school that most of the school-oriented shows since then haven’t employed. This is refreshing, and makes Fillmore! quite a fun show to watch even in how over-the-top it commits to its style.
The show is about Cornelius Fillmore, a former juvenile delinquent whose life got turned around when he joined the X Middle School (that’s actually its name) Safety Patrol. But Safety Patrol officers aren’t merely hall monitors, they act as the school’s police force, solving the school’s minor crimes and student misdemeanours. In this, Fillmore’s partnered with the standoffish Ingrid Third who has a photographic memory. Together they take on cases and unveil conspiracies all while never going to class.
That’s probably the most noticeable hole in this show as despite being set in a school, classes are barely ever shown taking place. So either we’re supposed to believe all the action in the series takes place over recess breaks, or education isn’t actually a priority at X. Even in their spare time, Fillmore and Ingrid are more likely to be seen in the Safety Patrol office than anywhere else. X must also be the world’s biggest school, as in addition to the wild scope of a number of one-time locations, it has dozens of extra-curricular activities and clubs to better imitate a city environment. That very idea is where the show is fun. It really commits to its cop show format portraying each school clique or group as its own serious organization. The principal (voiced by Wendie Malick) is essentially a city mayor, detention is treated with the atmosphere of prison time (not often is it acknowledged all these kids have to go home after school), and the Safety Patrol even uses forensic science in their investigations.
Even though a lot of this is kind of neat, Fillmore! is an incredibly unrelatable show for the main fact that no kid in the show acts like a kid, from the main characters to even the one-episode suspects. The language they use, the way they carry themselves, their personalities are all very adult. With this in mind, it’s no surprise parents almost never appear in the series. Tara Strong, who’s voiced plenty of kids, doesn’t even attempt a younger voice for Ingrid, nor does Horatio Sanz as Junior Commissioner Vallejo -a guy who is every great commissioner cliché from the tie and haircut, to his no-nonsense attitude and comical exclamation “FILLMORE!” Fillmore himself is a character very much in the mould of Hawk from Spenser for Hire with maybe a touch of Shaft. He often reflects on his former life (which has to be less than a year prior to the events of the series), as though he were a hardened criminal. At times Fillmore! takes itself a little too seriously which can work in staying true to the genre and the cheesy set-up. But often you can’t help but be taken out of it for the fact these characters are supposed to be pre-teens and their cases never put them in any real danger. There’s even an episode where they solve a legit forgery crime outside of the school in a case that should involve the real police.
However, the show is quite well-written and the idea is a pretty inventive one, even if the joke is doomed to wear thin after a while. It was created by Scott M. Gimple who’d previously worked on Pepper Ann, but may be best known now as the showrunner of The Walking Dead. And he clearly loved old cop shows! This series is a perfect example of a parody-homage, satirizing elements of the genre while also paying respect to them. From little details in the action scenes and camera-work, to a wonderful smooth jazz musical accompaniment underscoring every episode, to a few genuinely good ending speeches from Fillmore, it’s definitely paying tribute while simultaneously trying to be something new for Disney. And while it can’t always be taken seriously, it’s certainly one of the more successful One Saturday Morning experiments.
When One Saturday Morning was replaced by ABC Kids, it wasn’t a huge or noticeable change, but gradually it became apparent. By the ways it was advertised and the lesser presence it had as a television line-up, it lost some of the lustre, as well as a great logo. However, though I left it about this time, I won’t deny there was quality during its own run. I’ve heard good things about The Proud Family and Phineas and Ferb, amazing things about Kim Possible, and I have no reason to believe these weren’t as good as the hype. I even watched and remember liking the Lilo & Stitch animated series quite a bit -certainly a vast improvement over Teamo Supremo. But for many of us late ‘90s/early 2000s kids, that One Saturday Morning block was the best thing about the weekend. Over those five years, it wasn’t segregated between the good era and bad era, as there was an organic mix of both throughout its entire run. The shows that were good: Recess, Pepper Ann, 101 Dalmatians, The Weekenders, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, House of Mouse, and Fillmore!, still hold up as decent and entertaining kids shows. I wish there were DVD releases of some of these series, I wish they were rerun, I wish kids today could be exposed to them. But maybe it’s for the best the next generation have their own cartoon line-ups to love. One Saturday Morning was a wonderful little period, the only significant cartoon block of my childhood, and I had fun looking back on each of these series. To those who’ve been reading, I hope you enjoyed reliving these shows as well.
Happy 20th Anniversary One Saturday Morning! Here’s to you, you marvellous number balancing on a ball!