Saturday Morning Historical Reenactment Society

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1984 8:30 on CBS: THE GET ALONG GANG
captain_slinky wrote in saturday_am_80s

In 1984 at 8:30 in the morning, CBS ironically ran the most Orwellian of all 1980's cartoons, The Get Along Gang. Created by a committee of artists and marketing specialists at the American Greetings Toy Design & Marketing Division (trying to refine and recreate the powerhouse merchandising magic of Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Shirt Tales and Smurfs) working in conjunction with the never-more-powerful Parental Watchdog Groups, The Get Along Gang was an experiment in just how much influence and control mass media had over the masses. Writer Mark Evanier summed it up very well:

"[Television watchgroups] all seek to make kidvid more enriching and redeeming, at least by their definitions, and at the time, they had enough clout to cause the networks to yield. Consultants were brought in and we, the folks who were writing cartoons, were ordered to include certain "pro-social" morals in our shows. At the time, the dominant "pro-social" moral was as follows: The group is always right...the complainer is always wrong.

This was the message of far too many eighties' cartoon shows. If all your friends want to go get pizza and you want a burger, you should bow to the will of the majority and go get pizza with them. There was even a show for one season on CBS called The Get-Along Gang, which was dedicated unabashedly to this principle. Each week, whichever member of the gang didn't get along with the others learned the error of his or her ways....

...I don't believe you should always go along with the group. What about thinking for yourself? What about developing your own personality and viewpoint? What about doing things because you decide they're the right thing to do, not because the majority ruled and you got outvoted?"

Thirteen mind-controlling episodes were produced, which American Greetings still refuses to release on DVD for some unknown reason. Like, not just a "Meh nobody would want a DVD of that show", but an actively negative stance towards any company approaching them regarding DVD release rights! The closest to a full season DVD release we've ever gotten is from Mill Creek Entertainment, who released a low-quality "Best Of" DVD that contained 10 of the 13 episodes(?!) and then the remaining 3 episodes were released as "Bonus Features" on other 80's cartoon DVD releases such as Heathcliff and the popular-but-oddly-mish-mashed TV Toons To Go DVD set. Weeeeeeird....

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Huh. I vaguely remember this having a different opening.

Hmmmm... they probably had two versions, the "Long" and the "short" version - most cartoons of the 80's had 2 or 3 versions of the opening for when/if an episode ran a tiny bit long or short. Same with the credits at the end.

That's the intro I remember and there was only one season. BUT the season wasn't the only GAG produced. The pilot was produced by a different company from the series, so perhaps you remember the pilot?

I like the show and the characters. The kids hang out at Hoofnagel's ice cream parlor...and they tend to enjoy different flavors from the colors of their scoops of ice creams...a subtle way of dispelling the groupthink stereotype of the concept.

Yes, it's nice to be unique and thinking independently just so one doesn't alienate close friends by acting like a jerk in the process. Getting along and still remaining friends after a disagreement probably rings more true (I know some people who can't manage that at all)...and if things like obeying the law, being nice to someone, or protecting something valuable from being damaged or destroyed that requires a majority mutual vote within the group...who can vote against with a clear conscience?

With ensemble shows like "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere" (3 comedic/dramatic storylines with a regular cast of 12 to 15 actors plus guest stars in every episode) airing on prime-time to critical acclaim around that time in the 1980s, an animated ensemble cast would be just as interesting, although with a half hour format with two 10 minutes stories per episode...the multiple storyline format may be difficult to do. The Gang had some unused potential on that end.

It's not the funniest or best animated show ever...but it had its charm.

Edited at 2013-08-01 11:30 pm (UTC)

Mark Evanier has a richly deserved reputation for being the go-to guy for news and informed commentary on a staggeringly vast range of subjects. "The Get Along Gang", at least in the form it eventually took, sadly isn't among them.

Although there's a lot in his article that's at least technically correct, he's left out some important information that,if included would blast a colossal hole in the assertions he's making. Yes, teaching children that "the majority is always right" and that "getting along with the gang" means always being "in lockstep with them" is indeed a silly thing and any genuine attempt to do so is rightly to be ridiculed and condemned.

Thank heavens then, that the show's actual writers saw things differently and, on their own initiative, included genuinely valuable messages about the value of things like tolerance, honesty, kindness, courage, forgiveness and, of course, teamwork. Evanier artfully fails to include any of that in his report.

If you choose to view "The Get Along Gang" through the distorting lens of his "P.O.V." rather than with your own eyes and ears, then it's little wonder that ignorance and unfair criticism of the show should be so widespread and entrenched.

Edited at 2014-02-15 04:05 pm (UTC)

Mark Evanier was the head story writer for the "Dungeons and Dragons" cartoon series on CBS which aired on the same schedule as the "Get Along Gang" premiere season run. Evanier expressed frustration in writing episodes for a large cast of characters and have Eric the Cavalier being the usual complainer of the group and being forced to agree with everything the other D&D good guys (Hank, Presto, Diana, Sheila, and Bobby) in order to save the day against Venger the bad guy.

Of course, with a powerful bad guy like Venger and his minions...teamwork would be essential for the D&D good guys to defeat him.

If Evanier has problems with teamwork and writing for an ensemble cast in each episode and prefer to write for a show with one unique individual as the star...he picked the wrong show like "Dungeons and Dragons" to work on.

Creating art or writing stories with an ensemble cast of characters like the Get Along Gang does take a lot of effort to make sure each cast member depicted has something good to contribute rather than just stand around and be window dressing/inert scenery and adding nothing to the story/art.

...I don't believe you should always go along with the group. What about thinking for yourself? What about developing your own personality and viewpoint?

...Or, if the above seems too much like hard work, why not just mindlessly parrot someone else's "POV" and pass it off as your own? As the OP rightly says, it's out on DVD now. It's also been out on VHS for a lot longer and there are several full episodes on YouTube, if you're in the mood to try before you buy.

Those who can muster the will and brainpower to actually watch the show might just find out that it's real pros and cons are hugely at odds with Mark Evanier's weasel words. That's not "Orwellian" or "mind control", that's getting your goddamn facts in order, something far too many on the internet and in real life don't seem to give a tinkers piss about.

The series might have its problems, sure (and artytoons gave a good defense), but I got to admit -- that intro is surprisingly catchy.

And having been a Boston Public fan, I was amused to no end to find out that this was one of Nicky Katt's earliest gigs. XD

Edited at 2013-08-03 04:08 am (UTC)

When did the watchdog groups begin to lose their hold on the networks?

It was right around the time that the networks gave up on having a Saturday Morning and/or an after school cartoon line-up. All the new cartoons were coming from a syndicated programming block package and/or Cable Networks who were not subject to the same broadcast standards as the major networks. As it became easier for networks to fill their broadcast hours with infomercials and talk shows instead of cartoons, and since cable networks didn't have the same scope or audience as the majors, there just weren't any real valid targets left.

Did the emergence of Fox have anything to do with it? I remember that the Usual Suspects made their various complaints in 1993, when Power Rangers first came on the air. (One big commercial for the toys, too violent, etc.) But I don't think Fox ever really paid any attention to them.

The Fox experiment in Saturdy Morning Programming paid off big - they found loopholes by gaining exclusive US syndication rights to imports such as Power Rangers as well exclusive US syndication rights to new cartoons that were trying to do the whole game *backwards* - make a cartoon based on an established property and hope that it'll cross over in to all the other streams of revenue.

Oh god we're getting into cartoons I vaguely remember from before I could remember things. Soon we'll be talking about cartoons I actually do remember.

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