|In the wake of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?''s unprecedented success, Hannah-Barbera wasted virtually no time in broadcasting a slew of new cartoon detective comedies with a group of teenagers and a distinctive mascot. For years, new mystery shows featuring the likes of a genie, a handful of talking dogs not related to Scooby Doo, a werewolf, a talking car, and more were broadcast with varying degrees of success. In 1977, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels joined these ranks. Initially aired as a backup feature on HB's Laff-a-Lympics, a group of teenage girls drove their van around the country and solved mysteries, calling Captain Caveman whenever someone was needed to bonk their head against something hard or make a fish-out-of-water prehistoric observation. The Captain, a monstrously hairy beast, was a bona fide superhero, who derived his powers from his incredible club that contained not only an astonishging array of unusual stone-age gadgets, but the hero's sidekick and straight man, Cave Bird.
Four years later, the backup feature of The Flintstone Kids, Captain Caveman and Son featured all-new adventures of the legendary hero, this time in his native environment (Bedrock). Gone were the Teen Angels, gone was the sidekick bird, and in their place was Cavey, Jr., the Captain's new sidekick and straight man. Through Captain Caveman and Son, we learn that being frozen in a block of solid ice for several thousand years did nothing to affect his skills as a crimefighter; that is to say, he was inept even before millenia in an ice cube. His club, minus the bird, produced a vast array of random objects with which Captain Caveman and Cavey, Jr. solved various problems through undercover detective work, superheroic action, and of course, Captain Caveman bonking his head against hard things. Cavey, Jr. provided the voice of reason (and the voice of Charlie Adler) and intellect that prevented Captain Caveman from destroying Bedrock in his efforts to save it from ciminals, rampaging monsters, and other villainous ilk in six minutes or less.
I hate Charlie Adler. With a passion. Not personally, of course, I've never met the man. As a voice actor, however, he stands as all the proof I need that whatever system those responsible for casting voice actors doesn't work. In the course of a career spanning back to 1977, he has voiced a number of major characters in regular animated series, including Rowdy Roddy Piper in Hulk Hogan's Rock and Wrestling, Bat-Bat, one of the other superheroes active in Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse, one of the main characters in SWATKats (the other was voiced by Barry Gordon, best known for providing the voices of Donatello and the Quik Rabbit), the Bighead family in Rocko's Modern Life, Buster Bunny of Tiny Toon Adventures, and most recently, as Cow, Chicken, the Red Guy, and I.R. Baboon of Cow and Chicken and the spin-off/backup cartoon I.M. Weasel. The problem I have stems from the fact that nearly every character he has professionally voiced in his career (and this is hardly a complete list -- it's more a highlight list) sounds exactly the same. Nowhere is this as obvious than in Cow and Chicken, since Cow, Chicken, I.R. Baboon and Red Guy all sound like each other, Buster Bunny, and Cavey, Jr. I admit a fondness for Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bat-Bat. I still like Buster Bunny -- I can watch Tiny Toons and not think about the hack voicing Buster Bunny (though that may have something to do with the fact that I'm distracted by the hacks providing the voices for Bugs Bunny and the other classic Looney Tunes, John Kassir and Jeff Bergman). It's true, I don't hate his entire body of work; Tiny Toons was a good show under its own steam, though admittedly the first two are from my youth, and things I remember liking when I was a kid get a little extra slack, but that fondness doesn't change the fact that the three of them are guilty of having the same exact voice. It may seem unfair that I'm being so hard on him, especially since I'm not a voice actor and can't say from any kind of experience how difficult it is to come up with different ways of speaking to disguise the fact that I'm the same person. I say to that: "crap." I could take up another four or five inches singing the praises of other voice actors who do just that on a regular basis without even bringing up Mark Hamill. Nope, sorry. He doesn't get sympathy from me for my inability to understand the pressure he's under talking for a living.
That aside, I kind of liked Captain Caveman and Son. It was an appropriate choice for the backup short for The Flintstone Kids, certainly. I confess to not having a lot of use for The Flintstone Kids; that sort of dumbed-down kiddie stuff was never for me. Especially considering what was required in dumbing down The Flintstones, a show that was always pretty innocuous and kid-friendly. I grew up watching reruns of it in the afternoon -- The Flintstones and all its descendants (The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, The Flintstones Comedy Hour, etc.) have all been kids shows in spirit if not in practice. Dumbing it down brought the concept to the level of Barney or something just as likely to pacify without stimulation. Captain Caveman and Son was no smarter than its host-show, but it was funnier. There remains something to be said for Captain Caveman bonking his head into hard things.