Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an actual kids’ show that spoofed kids’ shows but was actually on Saturday mornings? Well if you were around in the mid 1970s you wouldn’t have to imagine it because it was on ABC during the 1975-76 TV season. Filmation had just entered into live action shows and had great success with Shazam and Isis but this time around they thought they would have a go at a humorous live action show called “Uncle Croc’s Block”.
They imagined, and later produced, a program where the host of the kids’ show actually hated his job, and the director of the show was always frustrated. In the same vein as “The Banana Splits” from Hanna-Barbera, Filmation created “Uncle Croc’s Block” starring Charles Nelson Reilly as the titular host and Jonathan Harris as Basil Bitterbottom, director of the show. The idea was that it was basically a comedy (with a laugh track) centered around the show within a show which allowed kids a glimpse into what went in to making such a program. Uncle Croc wore a cartoonish costume that almost looked like he was being eaten by a crocodile. His sidekick was Mr. Rabbit Ears, played by Alfie Wise, who had large pink ears with antennas going through them and a large TV monitor in his belly.
Like “The Banana Splits” there would be live action comedy interspersed with new cartoons. “Uncle Croc’s Block” premiered on September the 6th, 1975. Unfortunately for Filmation they were their own competition since airing at the same time over on CBS was the second half of “The Shazam/Isis Hour”. The program did not do well and was soon cut from an hour to a half hour and then cancelled all together on Valentines’ Day 1976 after 16 episodes.
The lack of Filmation’s experience with this type of program showed in the quality. I suppose the scripts were mostly to blame. This show might have been enjoyed by younger children who liked slapstick but really with all the talent they had, this could have been a show enjoyed by people of all ages. The show did so poorly that the president of ABC stopped working with Filmation and went back to Hanna-Barbera for future programming. Filmation went on to repackage some of the cartoons from the show for syndication and home video.
The live action segments included a lot of pop culture parodies. There was a cuckoo clock named Cuckoo Kneivel that popped out riding a motorcycle, usually all they way out through the window. Steve Exhaustion, the $6.95 man, played by Robert Ridgely, was a parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, only this one was always breaking down. Witchie Goo Goo, played by Phyllis Diller, was a knockoff of Pufnstuf’s Witchiepoo. Alice Ghostley played Junie the Genie, a supposedly teenage version of Barbara Eden’s Jeannie character. Billy Bratson was a Captain Marvel parody and when he uttered his magic word, “Shazowie” he turned into a sort of superhero, Captain Marbles, played by a nerdy Marvin Kaplan. Carl Ballantine played a Sherlock Holmes knockoff called Sherlock Domes with Stanley Adams as his partner Dr. Watkins.
There was a Captain Kangaroo parody called Captain Klangeroo who had as his sidekick, Mr. Mean Jeans, a Mr. Green Jeans parody played by Huntz Hall of Bowery Boys fame. There was also a character called Miss Invis who went around claiming to be invisible though she obviously wasn’t. They even had a Yogi Bear parody called Old Fogey Bear. As you can sort of tell from the names it just didn’t seem the creative effort behind creating the show matched the actual talent of the actors they were able to get to work on it.
As for the cartoon segments, there was MUSH, which of course was a parody of MASH, only with sled dogs in a medical outpost in a wintry wasteland. This show featured the voices of Kenneth Mars and Robert Ridgely. Wacky and Packy featured a caveman and his pet woolly mammoth that somehow ended up in modern times. Both Wacky and Packy were voiced by Allan Melvin. Lastly, and the only one I seem to remember liking, was Fraidy Cat, which featured a cat who was on his last life and constantly being haunted by the ghosts of his previous eight. All the cats were voiced by Lennie Weinrib.
Even the cartoons it seemed were not up to par with the standard Filmation had already set. The concepts seem like winners so I can’t blame the ideas for the failure of this show. The actors who were all fantastic in other shows were just too talented. You can check out some clips from the show on YouTube to see for yourself just how disappointing this show was. It may save yourself the time for searching for any bootleg videos that are out there. If you were young enough, you might have some great memories of “Uncle Croc’s Block”, but for kids who were older than ten at the time, I’m guessing this was not a Saturday morning show you’ll have put on your “got to see that one again” list.