Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Saturday Morning Memories: The Banana Splits Show

Karen: We're starting a new series of posts, gang. Each week Doug and I will bring up a fondly remembered Saturday morning show and throw it out there for discussion, hoping to evoke some memories and stories from the rest of you. I'm starting us off with one of my earliest favorites, the madness known as the Banana Splits!

When I was five years old I loved this show. Couldn't get enough of it. There were the musical segments, the corny jokes, and they also had animated parts, which I don't recall any more. But another big draw for me was the on-going serial, Danger Island, which featured a very young Jan-Michael Vincent:

It was like a live-action Jonny Quest in some ways -and had enough action and comedy to keep my interest!

Anybody else remember singing along to "Tra la la, tra la la la..."

And if you have any suggestions for future posts, let us know.


Fred W. Hill said...

I watched the Banana Splits regularly circa '70-'72 when my family lived in Long Beach, CA. I loved that show, even got a few Banana Splits comics, although those are long since lost. I don't remember much about specific shows, other than one episode when Fleagle was attempting to swat a fly and then the fly came back with a gigantic Fleagle-swatter! Then there was that Danger Island catch phrase, "Oh, oh, Tongooooooo!" Lots of fun for my 8 - 9 year old self.

david_b said...

Whaaat..? After all the gem ideas left in the illustrious BAB Suggestion Box, we're down to..

'Banana Splits'..??

Nah, it's all good. Yep, I had an aunt (now since departed) who found me all four Splits individual character posters, they were SO COOL.

(well, when I was 6 anyways..)

Yes, I watched it, didn't think much of the live action shows, all seemed grimy and dated, even for 1970.., but the Splits were better than most dismal/dire programming 'round that post-60s time. In a time where I'd wake up to watch yet another national funeral going on, at least the Splits (and Scooby, Archies, Monkees reruns, and some other shows..) were a jolt of electric joy.

But in a pinch, I'd prefer 'Lance Link Secret Chimp', because my Dad and older brother always loved 'em.

Anonymous said...

1 Banana
2 Banana
3 Banana
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more...

Glenn Baskin said...

Along with HR Puff N Stuff and Lidsville another show that warped my brain-

Humanbelly said...

Geeze, ANOTHER great call, Karen!

There were about a zillion cool things about this show-- I was DE-voted to it, believe me! I would have been 9-10 years old when it was airing, and perhaps that couple of years of age I have on a number of our teammates here has provided me w/ a more vivid recollection. That, and at one point I had an astonishingly memorable (and somewhat disturbing) dream that was set smack in that show-- and the memory has lingered these 40+ years (freaky, huh?).

-The theme song was just about the perfect, peppy, bubble-gum pop earworm. And it finally made the wise choice to switch from kiddy-style cartoon show music (i.e. Felix the Cat, Lippy & Hardy) to something that sounded like actual radio pop music. I used it as part of baby HBSon's bedtime song repertoire, in fact. (And now he's a Music Ed major-- see how it pays off?).

-Even as a kid I recognized that studio/framing format was based on the LAUGH-IN model, which was hugely popular in our household. Coolness factor of 10. This was a massive step up from Bozo the Clown or Captain Woody, 'cause even at 9 years old, those "kids" shows were feeling awfully condescending.

-My pal Bryan & I were totally wrapped up in Danger Island. That old-style serial format was perfectly successful in our case. If one of us missed an episode one week, the other would be bound to offer a gripping re-telling of the events. Bryan was actually the better story-teller, although he wasn't beyond enlarging things in order to improve the story's dramatic punch. (Tangent: I never saw the movie PHANTASM until about 1990-- and then was sure I'd seen it before. . . but realized it was because Bryan had "told" me the whole movie at one point when we were on a long, pre-license bike ride--) Loved the fact that the main hero was African American, and that his race was never mentioned or any factor at all, IIRC. I will confess, though, that I found Tongo's frenetic looniness rather unnerving and a little scary. He was like that 'cause of PTSD, right? Yikes!

-Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky ("Snork")-- right? Obviously riffing on the Beatles & the Monkees and similar guitar/pop groups-- making each member a personality "type". Snorky never spoke-- just like Ringo in the older Beatles cartoon.

-The animated features-- not as memorable, but let's see. There were The Arabian Knights-- which were sort of a superhero team, I think, with, uhm, "Arabian Night"-oriented powers. And there were The Three Musketeers, who weren't too different from, like, Baldur & the Warriors Three. As a kid I had trouble keeping their names straight, I do remember that.
And I think that was it, unless some other feature(s) rotated in.

*Whew*-- and all that w/out referring to Google or Wikipedia!
(And yet I have endless trouble memorizing lines & lyrics. . .)


Anonymous said...

In the 'Arabian Knights' one of the characters was able to change into ( say ) a lion by saying " size of a lion ! "

Anonymous said...

I loved the Banana Splits but only have hazy memories of the specifics. Thanks to Karen for a great topic and to everyone else for filling in the blanks.


Karen said...

OK, HB wins -I didn't remember any of the animated features, and he clearly has a genuine fondness for the show that surpasses the rest of us! Honestly, it's reactions like that that make it all worth it. When we know we've brought back some great memories, then we're doing our job right.

It was really my partner who brought up the idea of a series of posts on Saturday morning cartoons. I threw in the added notion of expanding it to include live action shows too. So we'll have some more Saturday morning goodness coming your way the next few weeks. We've already covered a few shows here and there, like Shazam, Isis, Jonny Quest, but there are a ton more to go.

david_b said...

It was all good stuff ~ Once it got to Lidsville and HR Pufnstuf, I was too weirded out.

("Puffing stuff"..? Really, were we THAT naive back then..?)

I was more into hunting down Batman, Aquaman, Spiderman, and FF animated reruns, and in my pre-prudescent mind wondering where exactly Fred and Daphne would conveniently wander off to for the middle 15 minutes of every 'Scooby Doo' story..

I did dig those ATV's the Splits rolled around in.. Like 'Danger Island', they looked more fun to be involved with filming than to just sit and watch.

mr. oyola said...

I was too young to ever catch this when it first aired (and by too young, I mean not born yet!) - but I did see a little of it on the occasional rerun in the mid-seventies and I remember it gave me a headache!

To this day the sight of the Banana Splits makes me a little nauseous - not sure why, I don't really remember anything about the show, but the costumes seemed nightmarish to me.

I did love some H.R. Puffenstuff, though, which I also saw in reruns.

Anonymous said...

I remember the show, vaguely. There were segments where they would pop in and out of doors or windows while delivering one-liners ("How can you live to be 100?" "Get to 99 and then be very careful!"), an obvious imitation of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. As I recall, there were segments with one of them as a caped superhero ("Super Drooper") and with Bingo (the ape) as a football coach. The Arabian Knights each had a unique power or talent-one was an acrobat, one an expert in disguises, one had the power to turn into animals ("size of an elephant"). They had a pet donkey who turned into a tornado when his tail was pulled. It became a convention that the villains would be about to capture the heroes, and some stupid henchman would grab the donkey by the tail, then the whirlwind would clobber the bad guys. Also, the show later added another cartoon called (IIRC), Micro Venture. A scientist had built a shrink ray, and he and his kids would explore the world of insects or something. Kind of a combination of Jonny Quest and Fantastic Voyage.

William Preston said...

I remember the song vividly, but otherwise . . .

However, I saw the Banana Splits "in concert" once. I think the event was at a racetrack. I vaguely recall a stadium. There were a ton of other acts, including performing elephants. As a little kid, I had no idea why the Splits kept being pushed aside by other acts. They did finally show and, as I recall, pretend to play guitars . . . I'm sure my parents were thrilled.

Tony said...

Loved this show when I was a kid!! I was about 3 or 4 when it originally aired, so I don't remember specifics either, except for the theme song. I also believe I might have seen them "live" as well at the CNE in Toronto. Or that might have been Sesame Street...anyway I always enjoyed, but looking back on it, I'm certain that the producers might have been ingesting something organic...

CavinJ said...

I never missed this show I endured the live action stuff in order to watch Adam Ant and Secret Squirrel cartoons!

Anonymous said...

Remember the Adventures of Hukkleberry Finn? Everything was animated except Tom, Huck and Becky. Then they would pick up something animated and it became real.... My child mind never really got past that.

Karen said...

William, Tony: The Banana Splits IN CONCERT? The mind reels!

Cavin -nice to see you on the blog!

humanbelly said...

That Huckleberry Finn show was a strange piece of work, yes. I'm sure it was an interesting performance challenge for the 3 "live" teenagers involved-! But it was another one that I watched w/ my sisters, as it was on in the evenings for its one abbreviated season. The whole what's-real-and-what's-animated? convention was something that even a kid had to blip over when the lines got blurred. Sacrificing storytelling clarity for the sake of visual novelty just never seems prudent to old-fashioned HB.
Loved Ted Cassidy as Injun Joe, though!


William Preston said...


I think the Partridge Family was hidden under the costumes. Or maybe the Monkees.

J.V. said...

I always caught the banana splits after school (latch key kid). For a while all I watched when i got home was Speed Racer cartoons, banana splits and the 60s spider-man animated show. Those were good times.

I had a crush on Becky too. Blissfully ignorant i thought i was the only one. Blondes as a kid (Cindy Brady & Becky) , then graduating up to brunettes Jaclyn Smith and Pamela Sue Martin

J.V. said...

Also, remember the Sour Grapes girls?

Proof that entertainment was better in the 70s as well. Now kids have Miley's tongue preening and twitter feeds.

Edo Bosnar said...

So let me get this straight: before he became a somewhat risque pop/rock star in the early '80s, Adam Ant was a cartoon character in the early '70s? I knew it!!! ... :P

Rip Jagger said...

Enjoyed this show quite a bit, but then we were all starved for entertainment back in those primitive pre-internet days.

What I first remembered when this topic was raised was that that the Drooper character was adapted to a local TV show where I grew up. Huntington, West Virginia had a long-running kids show in the classic tradition called Mr.Cartoon. He was a few different guys over the years, but a former weatherman Jule Huffman played the role and he was for a time joined by various of the Banana Splits. Then later a Drooper-lookalike (it was that costume altered slightly) named "Beeper" became his regular non-speaking sidekick.

So the Banana Splits lived on for a time in this alternate-universy sort of way.

Rip Off

Comicsfan said...

I remember ordering the official Banana Splits Club membership kit. I don't think I recruited any members, but I held meetings anyway. On the bright side, I voted myself as club president.

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