Thursday, 27 November 2014
21 Wacky Races
First watched : Uncertain
The first Hanna-Barbera production to feature here is my favourite cartoon programme bar none and would still feature in my Top 10 TV programmes of all time. I had Wacky Races wallpaper for my bedroom for a time.
I liked the huge cast of eleven vehicles and the uncertainty of the outcome ( except for who would come last of course ! ) My favourite character was Professor Pat Pending and I was always thrilled when he won the race.
The series was inspired by the Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon 1965 comedy The Great Race which is actually pretty awful. The show's star character Dick Dastardly is fairly closely modelled on Lemmon's pantomime villain Professor Fate. Dastardly's most obvious character trait is insecurity. He never trusts his impressive vehicle to deliver a clean victory and will always sacrifice a commanding lead to stop and set traps for the other racers. While the traps often do damage the other vehicles they always ultimately rebound on Dastardly to the poorly disguised glee of his canine sidekick Muttley. Dastardly was not the only character to take illegal action to undermine the competition but none of the others did so on the same scale and would occasionally help each other especially if the distressed party was blonde bombshell Penelope Pitstop.
In some ways the interactions between the characters when Dastardly wasn't around were the most interesting parts of the show. There was a blossoming romance between Penelope Pitstop and Peter Perfect whose ego was nonetheless punctured by frequent mechanical failure. Red Max in his car/plane hybrid was a bit of a chump whose efforts to get ahead usually came to grief without any assistance from Dastardly
Seventeen episodes each containing two seperate races were made between 1968 and 1969 and over the 34 races the first place honours were fairly even shared with every car bar Dastardly's wining either three or four times. If second and third places are counted there is more of a disparity with the Slag Brothers notching 8 runners up slots and the Army Surplus Special only one and no thirds.
Some of these characters we'll meet again in spin-off shows but the original remains the best.