This week we’ll take a look at another show about a genie. This one may be be more remembered than Shazzan, but apparently not more fondly. It seems that this show got a lot of terrible reviews, not that critics’ reviews were all that important for Saturday morning shows as they rarely got second seasons anyway. Personally I can’t say that I remember it too well beyond the main characters. I do know that most people probably remember Babu and his catch phrase though even that gets debated. I don’t believe it was ever put out on DVD and it didn’t seem to get rerun as much as its contemporaries so maybe there was something to all the bad reviews after all.
What was this show all about anyway? Well, it seems that Screen Gems, which made the prime time hit I Dream of Jeannie, teamed up with Hanna-Barbera to do a cartoon version. Some have called this a spin-off but I don’t see how that applies as this was just a complete alteration of the parent show for a younger audience. Making cartoon versions for kids of prime time series was a long lasting trend as we’ll see in future blogs. In this version we get a high school student who finds Jeannie’s bottle while surfing. This is explained in the opening credits. Instead of Barbara Eden, we get a younger Jeannie who crushes on her teen age master. As a bonus, we get an apprentice genie named Babu being trained by Jeannie who is clearly the focus of the comedy. Of course we have other parallels like a best friend to the master, and a girl to make Jeannie jealous. There is also a rich guy who is there to put a monkey wrench in the works.
The series had a typical 16 episode run and was aired on CBS from September 8 to December 22, 1973. The show was produced by Iwao Takamoto, the former Disney employee who designed many characters for Hanna-Barbera, most notably the characters from Scooby-Doo Where Are You?. Julie McWhirter starred as the title character, basically mimicking Barbara Eden’s Jeannie. Mark Hamill in his first ever (though fortunately not his last) voice over role, played Corey Anders who found the genie bottle while surfing. Mark was around 20 when he got this part and wasn’t too far removed from being an actual teenager. Joe Besser performed Babu, the inept genie apprentice. Joe was doing pretty much his own voice which many will remember from his time with the Three Stooges. Veteran actor Bob Hastings, who had many voice over roles was Henry Glopp, Corey’s best friend. Bob and Mark would of course go on to work with each other again many years later on Batman the Animated Series as Commissioner Gordon, and the Joker, respectively.
The show works pretty much the way you’d expect with Corey and Henry living typical teenage lives, going to high school, surfing, riding motorcycles, getting part-time jobs, etc. Jeannie of course struggles trying to cope with the modern world while finding lots of reasons to get jealous of other girls who get Corey’s attention. Babu tends to constantly mess things up by butting in or having issues with his magic not working. The guys also have lots of trouble trying to keep the identities of their genie friends a secret, especially from S. Melvin Farthinggale who is both a rich snob and a snoop.
Even though the show wasn’t well received, Hanna-Barbera did use the characters beyond the show. The whole Jeannie gang appeared on The New Scooby-Doo movies which teamed up the characters from Scooby-Doo with both cartoon and real-life (though animated) celebrities. Later Babu made it on to the Scooby Doobies team for Scooby’s All-Star Laff-a-Lympics which was kind of a mash up of Wacky Races and Battle of the Network Stars.
It seems the most interesting thing about the show was Babu, and since he appeared on more than one show it makes sense he’s the most remembered. What was his catch phrase though? Going over it again and again it certainly sounds like he was saying Yabble Dabble, but some think it was Yapple Dapple. Some people even remember it as razzle dazzle. Either way, that along with using Jeannie’s pony tail as her magic wand seem to be the only things worth remembering about this otherwise forgettable Saturday morning show.