|“Barking, scratching, frisbee catching, presidential pets…”
The bouncy theme song, wacky premise, and pop culture-skewering sense of humor could mean only one thing: Yet another cartoon from Warner Bros. Television Animation, the company behind Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, and others. Road Rovers took these elements into the canine world, pitting a group of super-powered pooches against the forces of evil in weekly adventures.
The Road Rovers were assembled by The Master, a glowing-eyed scientist (the eyes, he explained in one episode, were “special effects”) named Professor Shepherd. Shepherd had created a brilliant invention called the “Transdogmafier,” which could transform ordinary dogs into powerful, humanoid superdogs. When the metal-domed, muscular villain General Parvo dognapped the Professor’s pet dog, Scout, Shepherd was forced to turn over the plans to the Transdogmafier, which Parvo used to build his own warped version. Parvo’s band of hulking, violent “cano-mutants” launched a reign of terror and villainy on the world, and Shepherd knew it was up to him to put a stop to it.
The Master recruited five dogs from around the world, announcing with a beam of light that they had been "chosen.” From Russia came the Siberian husky Exile; from Germany, a doberman named Blitz. England was represented by the collie Colleen, while Switzerland delivered a sheepdog named Shag. In America, things hit a bit of a snag. The Master had chosen a retriever named Hunter, but Hunter was imprisoned in a dog pound. The daring retriever made his escape, but he wasn’t willing to leave a pal behind. Thus, The Master’s initial crew of five got a sixth member, the crazed rottweiler Muzzle (who had to be restrained in a Hannibal Lecter-style mask, straitjacket, and wheeled frame).
The Master put each of the dogs (minus the unpredictable Muzzle) through his Transdogmafication process, turning them into the humanlike Road Rovers. Hunter, the leader of the group, had his natural speed enhanced. The sassy, streetwise Colleen was now a martial arts expert. The warm-hearted Exile was given super vision (freezing, x-ray, night, etc.) Blitz, the cockiest member of the group, was a formidable fighter with his razor-sharp claws and teeth. Shag, who remained the most doglike, grew into a massive, hairy strongman, but his inborn cowardice was still intact.
Each week, the Road Rovers rode into action in a variety of dog-themed vehicles (with their heads out the window, tongues flapping in the wind, naturally). Aside from Parvo himself, the Rovers had to deal with his minions, including The Groomer, Captain Storm, and a schizophrenic spaniel named Psycocker. The “cano-sapiens” handled the adversity with wit, bravery, and above all, teamwork. After each mission was completed, the Rovers were returned to their purely canine forms, where they masqueraded as the ordinary pets of their various heads of state (the former stray Hunter was placed in the White House as the pet of the U.S. President and First Lady).
As with most Warner cartoons, Road Rovers got a lot of mileage out of puns, asides, and Hollywood in-jokes, but unlike Animaniacs and others, this show's emphasis was on the action. Despite these tried-and-true touches, Road Rovers only ran 13 original episodes before its abrupt cancellation. Disconsolate fans howled, but to no avail.