Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.
Superhero stories are a breeding ground for crossover and marketing synergy. Whether it be the standard multi-title comic arc or a video game where the main character flies through floating rings, comic book superheroes, the gods of our time, cannot escape the super-sized shoehorning caused by those looking for a new customer, regardless of what the standards of good taste are that week. Flagrant merchandising reigns supreme for comic book and movie studios alike, but back when the means of production failed to grasp how many different Batman figurines could be produced simply by changing the paint job, far more humiliating experiments were afoot.
That was the thinking behind The Adventures of Superpup pilot, a slapstick take on George Reeves’ Superman TV show. Another Superman show seems commonplace in a world that reboots Spiderman every time someone’s nephew needs an internship, but 1958 was a different world. Superpup differentiates itself from Reeves by slapping a canine motif on the script and outfitting the cast in horrific dog costumes. This Island of Dr. Moreau of the DC Multiverse failed to grab a sponsor probably because of how terrifying it all is.
Presented half in color and half in black and white, salesmanship and stupidity defines Superpup. The show replaces its characters with their anthropomorphic canine counterparts, adds a rascally rodent sock-puppet narrator, and ramps up the yucks. The cast shouts through the script and sticks to the H.R. Pufnstuf logic of live-action cartoons, i.e. none of the show makes a lick of sense.
To recap, Bark Bent (yup), the Daily Bugle’s star reporter, moonlights as our titular dog in blue. A crackerjack journalist, he reports to his editor Terry Bite to talk about the recent apprehension of the mad scientist sheep dog, Sheep Dip. Meanwhile, in another space and time entirely, Sheep Dip responds to Terry and Bark’s confidence of Dip’s long-term confinement with an ominous “that’s what they think.” Sheep Dip escapes prison and, after evading Sgt. Beagle, heads to the Bugle to care of that libelous Terry Bite. One of Dip’s cohorts infiltrates the Bugle’s headquarters and plants an explosive, which, only moments earlier, caused a nuclear explosion. Of course, in a world home to an invincible pug, no one is ever in too much danger, and our noble hero springs into action, stealing the vile of nuclear explosives and drops it on the head of the fugitives. Superpup puts Sheep Dip, who undoubtedly suffers from radiation poisoning at this point, behind bars.
Or so he thinks.
After the first ten minutes, the show repeats itself. Following the techniques forged by Max Fleischer’s seminal Superman cartoons, the hero wraps things up quickly, because those episodes were only 12 minutes long. The Adventures of Superpup, however, >follows this far too closely, and after twelve minutes, finds itself without much to do for the remaining ten. So the show does what any self-respecting pilot about superhuman dog would do, it does the whole thing again. Sheep Dip escapes and attaches Superpup’s girlfriend, Pamela Poodle (clearly not even trying anymore), to a rocket. The show finds itself in a precarious position where the irony wears off and things become a little less fun and a lot more annoying.
Producers didn’t make The Adventures of Superpup bulletproof to withstand a critical firing squad and they knew it. As such, the show was never aired for a reason: no matter how much producers butter up sponsors, this show is just too weird to push on kids. DC or Warner Bros have tried and failed to recreate Superpup, because this is an idea worth revisiting. But The Adventures of Superpup, a show that couldn’t finish its pilot without redundancy, was never going to convince anyone that a dog can fly.
Allow The Adventures of Superpup to soothe your post-Puppy Bowl hang over pains:
Man by day, dog by night, Matt Schimkowitz is a writer, TV-watcher, and lycanthrope in treatment. Like you, he enjoys the finer things in life: drinking from coconuts, the latest Italian vogue, and complaining about movies, music, and TV on the Internet. Find more writing about canceled TV shows and other irrelevant nonsense on the Twittersphere.