Saturday Morning Fever Quest Coverage

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The following is taken from the book Saturday Morning Fever by Thomas and Kevin Burke. It was recovered here.

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adventure cartoons from Saturday morning, due to controversies over the show's allegedly violent tone. (Mark Evanier said that in one ABC retrospective on Saturday morning, producers were told to leave out Jonny Quest because it had "ruined everything" with its violent content.) In comparison with insipidly prosocial cartoons, Quest was, we'll admit, pretty strong stuff. Some of the claims made by advocacy groups about "violence" in cartoons were silly, but there's no getting around the fact that bad guys in Jonny Quest got blown to smithereens, smashed by flying power boats, and so on. You didn't see them die in gory detail, but it's pretty clear that there were villainous fatalities in some episodes. This is part of what made it—and still makes it—such a good show. Unlike so many other cartoons, The Adventures of Jonny Quest was not lobotomized or otherwise ridiculously disconnected from the genre which gave it life. In earlier action-adventure fiction, or pulp novels, or radio serials (including thsoe intended for young audiences) people sometimes died or were otherwise injured in the courase of the adventure. that's the stuff that makes the genre work. it's not as if we got to watch Race rip off Dr. Zin's head, Mortal Kombat style. (Though come to think of it...)

And because it was so directly connected to its cultural wellspring, it was also mercifully free of the absurdly cute or "educational" touches that marred later adventure-oriented cartoons. Jonny was not the kind of helpless moron kid that so often fetched up in the company of adults in cartoons like The Godzilla Power Hour. Jonny and Hadji—especially Hadji, who had a store of perilously-close-to-offensive "Indian" talents, like hypnotism—could hold their own against all sorts of villains, even though they did get into trouble with some frequency. Bandit, though cute, wasn't grotesquely so, and he was actually a genuine asset to the Quest team, unlike his later canine counterparts. Most of the kids on Saturday morning were so annoying or useless that we rarely identified with them, but Jonny and Hadji seemed to be having so much fun on their adventures that we often wished we could be in their place.

Moreover, Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon were the coolest parents on the planet: Race taught the kids judo and DR. Quest let them help him build death rays and crush nefarious spies. The Quest family lived on their own island base in the Caribbean. Race and Benton had everything covered--they were Mom, Dad, and your Really Hip Weird Uncle all wrapped up in one. Jonny's real mother was never mentioned in the original series, which is just as well, since many devoted Quest fans have noticed that Jonny resembles Race a 'lot' more than he looks like Dr. Quest. We've always assumed that Race and Benton sowed their heterosexual oats at an earlier point in their lives, with Jezebel Jade or whomever, one of the two of them fathering Jonny along the way, and then they shacked up with each other t live happily ever after as America's most attractive and stable gay couple.

We're not the only ones to have noticed Race and Dr. Quest's exclusive preference for each other's company: some nervous prudes at Turner decided to give Jonny a mother in one of their attempts to revive the program. Worse yet, they implied that Dr. Quest had been married all along, and that Mrs. Quest was also a scientist who simply stayed back at home and never went adventuring. Yuck. Why didn't they just draft Aunt Harriet from the live-action Batman series if they needed a female character to keep a watchful eye on Benton and Race?

The latest Turner revival of the franchise, entitled The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, is a bit better, on the whole, but still lacks a sense of why the original was so successful. They've added a new character, Race's daughter Jesse, who actually fits in pretty well. (We hasten to add that she sort of resembles Dr. Quest, which just makes the domestic situation at Quest Compound even more intricate.) There were some stupid things in the early episodes of this latest version; Race originally alternated between having a weeny-boy voice or a faux-Southern accent, they moved the Quest team to Maine, and they briefly took away Dr. Quest's red hair. Some of this has been fixed in the more recent episodes, which have featured the return of Dr. Zin and Jezebel Jade, as well as Dr. Zin's twin daughters. As Hadji used to say, Sim Sim Salabeem! No matter what Ted Turner's folks elect to do with the Quest family in the future, Race and Benton will always have Palm Key.

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