Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jonny Quest - The 1980's!

The Jonny Quest show was a hit from the get-go, twenty-six rock-solid adventures which appeared on CBS, ABC, and NBC. The show ran for decades in various venues, always reminding its fans of its greatness and constantly finding new fans who were drawn in by the absolute cool of the show. That said, those twenty-six episodes are far fewer than is normally needed for a show to thrive in syndication typically (though in the modern era that's hardly a rule anymore). There was a perceived need to make more episodes to flesh out the total and so in the 1980's thirteen new Jonny Quest shows were fabricated for the fans. Woeful.

The shows have the Quest team largely unchanged (Dr. Benton Quest, Roger "Race" Bannon, Jonny Quest, Hadji and Bandit) and doing what they did before all those decades earlier. But so much else has changed that the magic is long gone alas. Gone are the sleek 60's designs, the beautiful flowing lines and nifty cool knobs and dials and in their place are the clunky lines and edges which look like everything used by the Quest team was designed by DeLorean but injected with steroids. Race looks more like a cheapskate Rambo than the cool collected super-spy he's supposed to be. Jonny looks younger and his voice makes him feel like a little kid as opposed to a young man on the edge of adolescence. Hadji uses magic of all kinds in every episode with a distinct Phoenix (Jean Grey) on the rise vibe. The labs are enormous sprawling spreads and the planes are not the nifty real-world machines we associate with the team, but fantasy gimmicks which couldn't fly for three seconds.

And the threats are pure fantasy and not all that much grounded in reality. A herd of robotic Arabian horsese leap across the desert in a wild fracas, where as in the early days one would have been quite sufficient. The single Reptilian lurks and attacks  early on but soon becomes jut part of an island filled with brightly colored mutant dinosaurs. The worst part of these latter Quest shows is the awful plotting which aimlessly has the Quest team wander around in a fury of activity waiting for the episode to end. Concepts are thrown in and thrown away before they can gain any traction and suspense is never considered. Villains cackle and want to rule the world but lack the kind of immediate motivations of greed or even comprehensible plans which make the vile enemies in the original series so memorable and compelling. Dr. Zin shows up three times in thirteen episodes as opposed to four times in twenty-six and looks okay but seems always over his head. (Note, he always takes a direct hand too, unlike his Fu-Manchu style remoteness in the original shows.) Jade does not show up once to hypnotize us with her charms...sigh.

But we do have Hardrock the Monolith Man. I can only assume this new member of the Quest team, a super-strong rock man from an ancient underworld civilization was an attempt to make them  more "super" and maybe add a toy to the potential line-up. As it turns out he does have some pretty good lines, but often he has nothing to do save jump in and save the team from its own brash behavior.  He adds little, but does give the Quests a way out of jams they are even more eager to blunder into. Jonny in particular seems less like the fundamentally good but overly brave boy we know and more of a foolhardy scamp who fails to see the danger which is obvious. It's all a game and he and Hadji rush into danger in ways which defy good sense, even that of foolish boys.

It's a shame and pity we couldn't have had better. But they did make two more "classic" Quest movies. More on those tomorrow.

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