What stands out among your beloved shows in television’s golden years of entertainment? The Sopranos? MASH? Law and Order?
All pale in comparison to the paragon of excellence in that pantheon of classics known as... yes, I’m referring, of course, to Jabberjaw! Everyone’s favorite wise-cracking land shark was the titular character of a fondly remembered Saturday morning cartoon (they called them that before ‘animated series’ became the preferred ‘respectable’ term).
The fastidious production company Hanna-Barbera churned out just sixteen episodes of Jabberjaw but it has nevertheless persevered as a retro-favorite of fans to this day. Created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, Jabberjaw was a deliberate attempt to capitalize on their previous creation, Scooby-Doo who was similarly short-lived in his original incarnation.
Like that Great Dane sleuth, Jabberjaw travelled with four teenagers who got into trouble and were resolutely chased around by bad guys to the sound of groovy pop numbers. In fact, one major difference between Jabberjaw’s gang and the Mystery Inc. crew was that Jabberjaw and company were a touring rock band in the futuristic year of 2076!
“No respect from a clam!”
“No respect from a seahorse!”
“I don’t even get any respect from a starfish!”
Okay, so Jabberjaw’s writers weren’t necessarily brilliant or original. If Rodney Dangerfield was the source of Jabberjaw’s shtick, Curly from the Three Stooges was obviously the model for his speaking voice and mannerisms. Even more amusing, for my money, was the inter-species sexual tension he shared with band mate Shelly, who bickered on and off with her toothy pal but inevitably always stayed in the band.
Where are delightfully absurd cartoons like this today? Contemporary animated gag-fests seem to be written and created by cartoon super-fans who concentrate on amorphous paradoxes in cutesy-ass microcosms where every utterance is a knee-slapper and every occurrence a send-up of something recognizable from pop culture, but never for any good reason and usually devoid of any charm. One word usually sums it up— derivative.
Perhaps those refreshing classics will hit the Saturday screens more often. After all, kids don’t care what’s contemporary or not and— until 2070, who can really say for sure if an ocean-exploring band with a drumming shark spitting out one-liners is probable or improbable. In that regard, Jabberjaw’s still the latest, greatest shark you ever saw!
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