There's something that the Internet at large has been curious about lately. If you were of a certain age around 1989, you no doubt have warm memories of a pro wrestler and a skinny guy dressing up in bright overalls and talking in fake Italian accents five days a week. Most people know of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, if not firsthand, then by word of mouth. What they don't know is that the show was massively retooled in its second season into something called "Club Mario." They're still putting out Super Show DVDs to this day, but Club Mario has never been seen again. What was it like, and why was it lost?
Unfortunately, the ONE person who thought to tape Club Mario before it disappeared forever, AND thought to digitize the episodes later, also smashed EIGHT HOURS of footage onto the same DVD-R, so what does exist is terribly fuzzy. The man in question, who goes by the YouTube handle "coffee4binky," only caught it during the last few weeks it ran, so he didn't get much -- just 13 episodes (out of 16 that are known to privately survive). He uploaded some Club Mario clips to YouTube a few years ago, but of course, it doesn't look much better there. It's thanks to him that I obtained some full episodes.
So....now I've seen Club Mario. And.....now I have a big responsibility. This must be what Oppenheimer felt like after discovering atomic detonation. I've got to decide whether I want to let this beast out or not. Because guess what.....it's bad. It's really, really bad, people. So bad that I fully understand why it was buried, and pretty much believe the rumors that its masters were trashed.
There was a satirical video series online for a couple of years called Awesome Video Games, and audience reaction to it was polarizing. Some people thought it was hilarious, while others were put off by the jerky camera movements, X-TREME radical hosts, and frenetic dizzying editing. Me, I thought it was the funniest video series I'd EVER seen and I could only watch them a piece at a time because I'd be laughing so hard I would have to take periodic breaks just to breathe. Those in the latter camp were obviously not watching TV in the early 90's because they weren't getting the joke. There were really shows like this.
And Club Mario is exhibit A, B and C. Imagine tuning into the Super Show in the fall of 1990 and having this suddenly happen:
Instead of Mario and Luigi (which made more sense since it was their show) you got a surfer dude named "Tommy Treehugger" and his sidekick Co M.C, dressed in extremely loud neon attire and attempting to be as KEWL and IN YOUR FACE as possible. The Marios' large apartment had been cut to a claustophobic corner stuffed with wacky, zany Pee Wee artifacts.
The budget had been slashed severely, so you won't be seeing Cyndi Lauper randomly show up. In fact, I don't think there was even a script involved. From the looks of things they just turned on the camera, had Tommy and Co MC make up some funky-fresh dialogue, and called it a day.
There WERE sometimes special guests, but they were usually Tammy Treehugger, Tommy's Deedee-like little sister, or "Evil Eric," Co MC's actor in a different outfit. I'm not entirely sure what makes Evil Eric "evil." All he does is walk around and say in a squeaky voice, "Thissa my show!" over and over. Which would be fine if he were a Pokemon named Thissamyshow, but he isn't.
Then there was the show-within-a-show "Spaced Out Theater," which Tommy and Co MC would turn on once an episode. A green-skinned woman named Princess Centauri would appear and show VERY poorly-edited clips from another show, Photon, while offering her own commentary that was sometimes related to the show and sometimes not.
The biggest, loudest question I feel like shouting is....WHY WAS THIS NECESSARY? Every kid I knew watched the Super Show! The ratings must have been through the roof! The cartoons were popular enough to continue on Saturday Mornings for two more years! WHY did they feel they had to switch everything around like this? It WASN'T BROKEN, so why did they "fix" it?
Maybe they saw what was coming and got scared. The Disney Afternoon was about to take a BIG chunk of syndicated real estate (in my area, at least, it went where the Super Show used to be), and Tiny Toon Adventures and other big expensive corporate productions were going to take the rest of the space. DEEK didn't make any new Mario cartoons for syndication, and they must have felt to compete they had to appear as "rad" as possible. To no avail -- these episodes were preserved in Las Vegas, Nevada where the show had been shoved to 7 AM. The lack of cultural knowledge regarding Club Mario means they must have gotten this dead-zone placement on most other stations around the nation.
Sometimes to fill time, Tommy and Co MC will engage in something they like to call "satellite surfing." That means they flip through the channels on their TV. Not only is this a feature of the show, it's an advertised one. As the theme song says, "satellite surfin' is where it's at." Satellite Surfing is just random (and I mean random) live-action clips from various stations shown two or three seconds at a time. I only know of one other show, Channel Umptee-Three in 1997, that did this and I'm not entirely sure of the legality involved. I do know that a show like Club Mario would try to aim as close to free as they possibly could. There is a moment in one of the episodes where they show a clip from Tom Hanks' movie The Burbs. You can legally show a clip of a movie you don't own if you review it. But Tommy and Co MC's reviewing methods are rather incomprehensible.
"So, uh, what'd you think of this movie,
"Uhh, I think I would give it, uh....three houses."
"I would give it a condominium, myself."
Does this count? .....I can't imagine a copyright lawyer for a big movie studio even being aware Club Mario exists, so maybe the question is moot.
I gotta clear my head, so let's take a look at some of the ads in this bootleg collection instead. Since it was a syndicated show on in the wee hours, most of the ads were local. These were the early days of Fox Kids, and the network had a "FOX KIDS CLUB" package affiliates could buy, and then modify as they saw fit. KPDX in Portland got this package and used the theme song, but did not go through the trouble of getting a local personality to host. KVVU in Las Vegas sort of did, but to the extent of finding the cheesiest-looking fox costume they could rent and just having a guy dance around in it.
The Fox Kids Club would give out varying prizes depending on where you lived. In Nevada they were giving out free birthday trips to McDonalds. If you lived in freaking Las Vegas, would you hold your birthday party at a McDonalds? Didn't think so.
I do have to say, the national ads I did get on this DVD were a real treasure trove of memories. Especially this stupid doll ad. "First Surprise Babies From The Magic Nursery." I didn't have a copy of it until now, but I used to jeeringly quote it on the playground all the time. I even drew a parody, "Last Surprise Babies From The Tragic Nursery." Hee hee, dead babies.
Timewise this was right on the edge of the 1991 fall season, which was also the first season Fox Kids expanded into a weekday lineup. So we get some great inital promos for early Fox Kids cartoons, some great (Taz-Mania, don't argue with me) and some not so great (anyone remember "Little Shop"?) The ad for Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates implies it's going to be taking over Club Mario's time slot.
"coffee4binky"'s DVD includes the very last Club Mario broadcast on September 6, 1991, a rerun of the Zelda episode "The Moblins Are Revolting." What a coincidence, so's the show. Here's what they did in their last moments of employment.
Treehugger and MC introduce the cartoon in their usual manner, but Treehugger accidentally pronounces Ganon's name as "Gonan." He realizes the error while they're taping, but it's kept in. By accident, this is Club Mario's one and only funny line.
Tammy shows up, and says all the people in her class want Co MC's autograph because he's SUCH a gnarly dude. "Well, I can do you one better, I can perform a rap for you," MC insists. That makes Tammy want to rap alongside him, so Treehugger gives her a coconut to shut her up. A coconut? Well, they would grab random props lying around the set and use whatever they grabbed first. There's a giant toothbrush they keep bringing out at odd times.
We're spared the insanity for about twenty minutes (you never realize how pleasant "EXCUUUUSE ME PRINCESS" sounds until you've been exposed to far worse). Tommy says "Whoa, that was an EXCELLENT cartoon, especially when Link and Zelda thwarted all the bad guys!" Liar, you didn't watch a minute.
"So in the last segment, that's like TV
talk, 'kay, Co MC said he was gonna do a killer rap, man, so Co
MC, bust a move!"
Here is the entirety of Co MC's rap, spoken out of sync with the beat machine:
"There I was, just walkin' down the street
Sayin' hello to all the girlies I meet
This one little girlie walked up to me
She said HEY YO YO WHY YOUR PANTS SO BAGGY
I said I do it like THIS then I do it like THAT
With all my baggies, I wear a hat
So if you want the girlies hanging off your arm
Wear your baggies an' hit 'em with your charm."
That's today's moral, kids.
Then Tammy wants to rap again, and this time,
they let her:
"Oh I'm Tamara and I'm here today
Tommy rebuffs me, but I'm here every Friday
I'm a singer, dancer, racquenteur
I'm a happening girl with a twirl
My brother's okay, but I'm a happening little girl."
Finally, Tommy solves a longstanding mystery
before they close up shop for good by asking Tammy how she can be
eight years old and six feet tall at the same time.
"I eat a lot of cereal," is her reply.
Tommy, MC and Tammy assemble on the little stage and Tommy says, "We'll see you Monday on Club Mario!" "Keep it real, it's in the mix!" adds MC, which must be ghetto code for "We're actually fired; help me."
Aside from these tapes, all episodes are lost except one. For some reason the version of the Super Show episode "The Unzappables" that's on iTunes and Amazon is the Club Mario variant instead of the original. No one knows how that happened. Odd.
So why does this really exist? I have a good theory. This whole thing is fishy and has the calling card of a certain notorious fatman. You see, despite the name "Club Mario," I have reason to believe the person behind this was not Andy Heyward, president of DEEK, but.....Wario.
Think about it. Taking over Mario's show and stealing his stuff was Wario's M.O. in the early 90's. And this is exactly the kind of show Wario would make. It's loud, it's obnoxious, and most importantly it's cheap. There's no shot that lasts longer than a second and they're all random and unrelated -- it's like Microgames TV. Plus, compare the clothing Wario wears to Tommy Treehugger's. The fashion sense is the same!
And doesn't "Thissa my show" sound familiar? Who else would write dialogue like that? What we're actually watching is Club Wario!
Another mystery solved. Now that I've figured it out, Wikipedia can be edited accordingly.
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