A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Super Mario Bros. Super Show is a frenetic and rather tense animated series that has become a cult classic since airing between 1989 and 1991. Parents may object to the show's violence: brothers Luigi and Mario are often in mortal peril when opposing villain King Koopa, a scary reptile that may upset younger viewers. Luigi and Mario themselves are the subject of rampant Italian stereotypes, often shown eating pasta or pizza, or referring to same. Villain Koopa frequently refers to them using insulting language, often containing stereotypes: "Spaghetti saps!" The show's sole female character, Princess Toadstool, is usually depicted as passive and helpless; the need to rescue her from various picturesque locations usually drives the show's plot. Famous guest stars drop by on every show, some of whom may give parents pause, like the sultry horror host Elvira (and her heaving bosom). The show's quick pace, annoying synth game music, and "us against them" plots involving heroes and villains may also worry parents. However, the broad humor in both the live action and animated segments, and the show's pedigree (connected to a beloved video game franchise), may enthrall young viewers.
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What's the story?
Just like the video game series from which it was inspired, THE SUPER MARIO BROS. SUPER SHOW features the antics of a pair of Italian brothers, Mario (Captain Lou Albano) and Luigi (Danny Wells). In live-action segments, the brothers play host to a series of famous guest stars having plumbing problems: Cyndi Lauper, Vanna White, Eve Plumb. Between the live-action segments that bookend each show, animated versions of Mario and Luigi go on wacky adventures, often satirizing a then-current movie, such as when Mario and Luigi end up in a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Old West town, or Two Plumbers and a Baby (Three Men and a Baby). In the animated segments, the brothers are often rescuing Princess Toadstool, a gentle royal constantly kidnapped by reptilian villain King Koopa and his evil henchmen.
Is it any good?
Current thirtysomethings weaned on a Saturday-morning diet of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show seem to have an inordinate fondness for it, but it's hard to see the appeal these days. Parents in particular will be turned off by the rampant Italian stereotypes, frantic pace of the show, the maddening and ever-present videogame music, and, worst of all, the passivity of Princess Toadstool, who calls helplessly for rescue in almost every show.
All that being said, the guest stars are often interesting, if not celebrities that modern kids will recognize. Norman Fell (Three's Company) and Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch)? What seven-year-old would know these hoary stars? Nonetheless, young gamers obsessed with Mario (and they are legion) will appreciate the show, and parents may get a giggle out of the '80s fashions on display: big puffy white sneakers and giant hoop earrings abound.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Princess Toadstool seems to always need rescuing. Why can't she rescue herself? Why is she so easily trapped by King Koopa and his minions? In real life, do women often need to be rescued by men?
After watching The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, what impressions do you have of Italian people? What do they wear? What do they eat? Do you know any Italian people in real life? Do they act like Luigi and Mario?
When originally aired, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show used popular music instead of game music. Do you know why the show's creators replaced the original music? Does the chiming game music now used in the show bother you? Or do you like it?
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