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"There's no need to fear -- Underdog is here!"
One of Total Television's most famous Animated Series, Underdog was a canine parody of Superman which debuted on NBC in 1964 and moved to CBS in 1966. Usually, each half-hour episode consisted of two chapters of a four-part Underdog story, separated by an unrelated TTV short.
Underdog's alter ego was "humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy". When summoned by TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebred, Shoeshine Boy dashed into the nearest phone booth and emerged in his heroic costume. For some unexplained reason, Underdog always spoke in rhyme. His foes included the mad scientist Dr. Simon Bar Sinister and his henchman, Cad Lackey (voice caricatures of Lionel Barrymore and Humphrey Bogart), and the lupine crime boss Riff Raff (based on George Raft).
Supporting segments included Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, Go Go Gophers and Klondike Kat. The series' voice talent included Wally Cox as Underdog/Shoeshine Boy and Norma McMillan as Sweet Polly Purebred.
You might've heard the theme song thanks to being Sampled Up by Wu-Tang Clan on their "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit". Parts of the Underdog theme song could also be heard in Wheels!, an Apple Macintosh game aimed at disabled children.
(For the Japanese manga of the same name, click here)
Underdog provides examples of:
- Animal Superheroes
- Animated Series
- Arranged Marriage: Underdog was forced into a marriage with an alien princess in "Zot." He doesn't follow through, though, and the princess marries someone else. And that's after Underdog defeats a Two-headed dragon that was menacing the aliens, also making it an inversion of Rescue Romance.
- Beach Episode: A storyboarded idea involved Underdog and Polly going to the beach and playing super-volleyball with a horde of robotic aliens in "The Nug of Nog."
- Big Bad: Dr. Simon Bar Sinister
- Bragging Theme Tune
- Cartoonish Supervillainy: Simon Bar Sinister
- Catch Phrase: "It's hip, hip, hip, and away I go!"
- "There's no need to fear. Underdog is here!"
- "The secret compartment of my ring I fill / with an Underdog super energy pill."
- Simon Bar Sinister would frequently preface an imperative with "Simon says..."
- Chaste Hero: He seems to be rather eager to escape Polly's advances.
- Cliff Hanger
- Combat Tentacles: The Guard from "The Bubbleheads."
- Cool Gate: Simon Bar Sinister has one bearing his surname.
- Counterfeit Cash: The opening of every episode shows a customer tossing a nickel to Shoeshine Boy, and Shoeshine Boy biting the nickel. This was an old trick dating back to The Great Depression, to tell if a nickel was real or just a wooden disc painted to look vaguely nickel-like. (He was adhering to the old adage "Don't take any wooden nickels!")
- Criminal Doppelganger: One of Underdog's enemies was his exact double, Tap-Tap the Chiseler, who didn't have any of Underdog's powers. It didn't stop Tap-Tap from using Underdog's image to get stuff like bombs without anyone batting an eye.
- Cute Clumsy Dog
- Disney Death: Underdog himself several times, e.g., in "A New Villain" and "The Silver Thieves".
- Distressed Damsel: Sweet Polly Purebred, in practically every episode.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Would get him into some serious trouble if it weren't for his Hero Insurance.
- Dumb Muscle / Evil Minion: Cad to Simon, as well as Mooch to Riff Raff. Then again, they're not much dumber than the average citizen on this show.
- Every Episode Ending:
Man 1: Look, up in the sky! It's a bird!
- Everyone Calls Him Shoeshine Boy
- Everything's Better with Spinning: When characters overcame their Easy Amnesia from the Forget-Me-Net, they would spin in the air.
- Evil Counterpart: With a hero called Underdog, it was practically inevitable that there would be a villain named Overcat. He's unlike Underdog in every way: whereas Underdog is a small, good-natured dog who uses his powers to help others, Overcat is a hulking, loudmouthed Jerkass cat who uses his own powers to bully his entire planet into submission.
- Flying Brick
- Furry Confusion: Humans and talking animals living together? Say what you want about The Movie but at least it makes a point of averting this.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The "barre sinistre" (or in English, the "baton sinister") was a heraldic mark of cadency indicating that the bearer was a bastard.
- Also, Underdog gets his powers by popping pills.
- Grand Finale: Vacuum Gun. Simon brings several old villains, including Electric Eel and Batty Man, Back for the Finale. The end of the episode apparently has all the villains Killed Off for Real when, after Simon tries to use the Vacuum Gun for the last time on Underdog, Underdog uses his "Atomic Breath" and sucks all the villians and the Vacuum Gun towards him, uses the Vacuum Gun on the villians, then exhales into the Vacuum Gun, causing it to explode.
- Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter
- Haunted House: In "The Gold Bricks." The ghosts were really all just special effects set up by Riff Raff.
- Heroic Dog
- Hero Insurance: "I am a hero who never fails; / I can't be bothered with such details."
- Often makes him look like a complete Jerkass. Sometimes he'll even crash into the wrong building and be like, "Oop, not my problem."
- The Hero's Birthday: Sweet Polly repeatedly mentions this in "Pain Strikes Underdog".
- Human Popsicle: Underdog (and several other town citizens) get this treatment in "Go Snow."
- Lightning Bruiser
- Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My!
- Loved I Not Honor More: "The Witch of Pickyoon"
- Made of Explodium: The telephone booths that Shoeshine used to become Underdog.
- Mad Scientist: Simon Bar Sinister, who would create a new machine to take over the world, but was always stopped by Underdog.
- Monster of the Week: Underdog often fights one of these in episodes where the villain isn't Simon Bar Sinister or Riff Raff.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed
- Notable Commercial Campaigns: Underdog vs. Stewie Griffin
- Our Vampires Are Different: Batty Man.
- Our Anthropomorphic Wolf Gangsters Are Different: Riff Raff.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Aside from the various villains, Underdog himself. This is Lampshaded in the movie.
- Psycho Electro: Electric Eel, who acquired his power from an electrified prison fence.
- Rhymes on a Dime: This once became Underdog's Achilles Heel, when Simon Barsinister undertook to commit crimes based upon the word "orange".
- Rogues Gallery
- Shoe Shine, Mister?: Underdog's secret identity.
- Super Breath
- Super Serum: Underdog's "Super Energy Pill" or "Energy Vitamin Pill" — sometimes removed from syndicated broadcasts.
- Taken for Granite: Underdog/Shoeshine, Polly, and several others in "The Marbleheads."
- Talking Animal
- Thanksgiving Day Balloon: One of the best remembered Macy's balloons.
- Three Shorts
- Through a Face Full of Fur: Underdog's face quickly turns bright red upon receiving praise.
- True Love's Kiss: Once done with
Lois LaneSweet Polly thanks to a Wicked Witch.
- What Could Have Been: Two failed pilots were made by Total Television but were not shown on TV until Underdog went into syndication. One was "Cauliflower Cabbie" (a canine cabbie who became do-gooder The Champion), and "Gene Hattree" (a Quick Draw McGraw ripoff in that it starred a singing cowboy horse).
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Underdog in "Forget-Me-Net." It's a long story...
- Weather Control Machine: Simon combined this with an Ominous Pipe Organ in "Weathering the Storm".
- X-Ray Vision: His can set things on fire, apparently, making them more like Heat Vision.