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 since this cartoon began life as a serial, sometimes episodes will conclude at the end of the half hour ... and sometimes they won't. And they're not necessarily being rerun in order. Young kids just don't get this, and they may be dismayed not to be able to "see what happens." What's more, the series is filled with every imaginable stereotype from the '60s, from helpless heroines to foreign baddies, as well as typical cartoon violence of the era (characters shoot cannons at each other, etc.).
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What's the story?
Proving that old TV shows never die, but instead live on forever as long as someone's willing to air them (or is producing a movie based on them...), UNDERDOG is still racing to the rescue on the airwaves. The '60s' not-so-super canine hero (voiced by Wally Cox) has a touch of Mighty Mouse in him -- and more than a little Superman -- but his rescues tend to leave chaos in their wake. As a superhero, he can't be bothered about such things, of course, but it's a fun twist that the show acknowledges them. Who ever saw anyone worrying about that wall Superman just took out?
Is it any good?
Underdog's chief charm is the sense that, unlike many superheroes, his regular persona ("Shoeshine Boy") seems to better represent the real him. The idea that, given the need, we could all rise to the occasion with a few superpowers has kept kids coming back. But these are the original Underdog cartoons -- serial storytelling, '60s' stereotypes, and all. The former is particularly frustrating, since it means that each episode starts with Underdog, then cuts to one or two other shorts featuring different characters (like Klondike Kat or Tennessee Tuxedo) before finishing with another Underdog -- which may or may not complete the story that began in the last installment. So kids may very well be left hanging and puzzled.
Because of that -- and because much of the show's humor depends on a solid knowledge of the genre being mocked (i.e. superhero movies) -- Underdog doesn't really work for young children. They may laugh when he flies into a wall, but they may just easily take his perils (and the trouble he has resolving them) too seriously and get worried when it all cuts off without a resolution. Many kids will prefer the short, more traditional cartoons that accompany Underdog, but there's no shortage of those elsewhere.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss what the show is parodying. What standard superhero clichés and devices are used here, and how? What could be added or changed to make the series stronger or funnier? Would you rather be Underdog, Superman, or The Tick? Families who see the live-action movie based on the cartoon might enjoy comparing the two, paying particular attention to how the story has been modernized.
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