Do you remember waaaaaay back when having a day off meant Saturday, and Saturday meant waking up at the crack of dawn to plop yourself in front of the television set with a bowl of sugar based cereal substitute to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay. Let’s get NOSTALGIC!
Let’s go back to September 7, 1974. If you were born on this date: You’ve slept for 5,620 days or 15 years! Wow… I mean sometimes it’s fun to play with statistics but think about that. FIFTEEN of your FORTY-SIX years of life have been spent sleeping? That’s exhausting to even contemplate. So let’s not. If you were watching television on this date instead, you might have seen the first airing of Hong Kong Phooey.
Hong Kong Phooey was a “spoof of live-action detective shows (not a spoof of Kung Fu, as has sometimes been suggested)” that was produced by Hanna-Barbera and ran for 16 episodes between September 7 and December 21, 1974. It featured the antics of mild mannered, but not overly bright, janitor Penrod Pooch and his feline side-kick, Spot, fighting crime with the aid of a different selection from “The Hong Kong Kung Fu Book of Tricks” and his shapeshifting pagoda mobile each episode. Hey! Scatman Crothers is the voice of Hong Kong Phooey! Evidently, Scatman Crothers did a lot of voice acting for cartoons, including Scooby-Doo, The Transformers, and The Aristocats.
What I remember
I don’t remember watching individual episodes of Hong Kong Phooey as a kid, but I do recall the character being a part of a larger show that made a sort of shared universe out of other Hanna-Barbera cartoons. (It might have been Laff-A-Lympics.) I also remember there being a fairly catchy theme song. I’m at least halfway certain that some of the memories I have of watching Hong Kong Phooey should be attributed to having watched Underdog instead.
The first episode, “Car Thieves/ Zoo Story,” has Penry transforming himself into Hong Kong Phooey with the aid of a file cabinet, a cat named Spot, and a quick once over of an instruction manual in order to stop a gang of car thieves. Specifically, he stops the car thieves after he assists one of them with stealing a car when he falls for their clever little-old-lady disguise. More specific than that, Hong Kong Phooey bumbles around until the thieves end up trapping themselves in red paint. In short, he’s not a particularly great martial artist, but the thieves don’t really require one to thwart them.
Honestly, one thing that I anticipated with a modern rewatch of something called Hong Kong Phooey was racial insensitivity. And yes, there’s some. The main character, Penrod “Penry” Pooch, gets his martial arts training from reading the “Hong Kong School of Kung Foo” manual. He also drives a pagoda. If you can look past those for the sake of watching cartoons, you can watch Hong Kong Phooey.
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More to come (live from what I remember about the 80’s!) as this story continues.
Kevin Wadlow is 100% a real human being and definitely not a murder of crows wearing a person suit. He is an avid reader of horror, tabletop gamer, and drinker of coffee who enjoys drawing things of strangeness along the way. When the zombie apocalypse comes, he will probably be eaten first after saying something about how he fully expected to go out like this.