If you thought the latest Flash movie was bad, you need to see it in this 1979 disaster. NBC aired two specials about the DC superheroes: one was a roast (?) hosted by Ed McMahon (?!), and the other was an adventure of sorts. Both featured rock-bottom budgets, sub-sitcom humor and a cracking, roaring laugh track.
Apparently not all of the shows are online, but the excerpts that are available confirm that these were absolutely terrible.
If you’re wondering how such a blatantly terrible concept ever came to be, I’ll provide an answer at the end of this post.
Here’s the introduction of the superheroes and a scene of the villains in their hideout, if you can stand it.
These are Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Frank Gorshin (Riddler), reprising their roles from the 1966 Batman TV show, so at least that. Charlie Callas and Howie Morris, two main actors in 1960s television history – and 1970s, the villains Sinestro and Dr. Sivana.
Here, villain Mordu sings an evil comedy version of “That’s Entertainment,” culminating with a pie thrown in the face by Batman.
Here is the appearance of a new superhero that is hilarious because – get this – he is black! Imagine a black superhero! It’s Ghetto Man!
If you think Hawkman is that tough, let him run around Harlem with wings. [laughter] By the time he got to Lenox Avenue, he would already be in Kentucky. [raucous laughter]
Here’s an excerpt from gossip columnist Rona Rooter (?), including an interview with new romantic couple Atom and Giantess. It gets a little risky. Because of their size difference, you know?
The best part of this debacle is this Nobody actually wanted to produce it – not NBC and not the production company Hanna-Barbera.
It was done accidentally.
Author and comics/cartoon historian (and former Hanna-Barbera writer) Mark Evanier heard the story of how this happened from the man who ran the Hanna-Barbera studio at the time, and confirmed it from one of the directors of the Series.
On his great blog News from meMark tells the story of how Joe Barbera and his agent Sy Fischer “sold” the show to NBC. They went to a meeting with tons of ideas, including a vague idea from DC Comics writer/artist Shelly Moldoff for a superhero roast.
Joe Barbera was a great salesman. During the meeting he was dazzling, funny and hypnotic as he tossed out idea after idea, sometimes merging two into one or one into six. After discussing dozens of ideas for about an hour, NBC’s vice president of variety finally said, “That’s great, Joe. We’ll buy ourselves two hours.”
That was Sy’s signal to end the meeting. First rule of sales: If they say “yes,” get out. If you stick with it, you give them the opportunity to turn the “yes” into a “no.” So Sy said something like, “Oops! We’re late for another meeting, Joe. I have to run!” And they went. They were out in the hallway when JB turned to Sy and said: “I know they just bought two hours… but I’m not sure what idea they agreed to.” Sy said, “Me neither… but let’s close the deal and find out then.”
The next day, someone at NBC called Sy and said, “Uh, we’ll honor the commitment, of course, but… well, this is kind of embarrassing, but could you tell us what we bought?” When Sy and Joe did that After leaving the meeting, the assembled NBC executives realized they weren’t sure. A few thought it might have been the idea of a superhero roast…so HB started with two roasts. Then they realized that the roast idea only worked for an hour (if that), so they made the other hour more of an adventure story.
So these terrible shows were made because both sets of executives were embarrassed by not knowing what was happening in a meeting.