Minorities in cartoons: “The New Archies”

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry involves the short-lived 1987-88 Saturday morning seriesThe New Archies.”

Background

The Archie gang had a lengthy run on Saturday mornings in the late 60s and 70s. However, by the late 80s, they’d been off TV for a decade.

It was decided to set “The New Archies” during the gang’s junior high years. The 80s had a craze (spawned by “Muppet Babies”) of making “baby” or “kid” versions of adult characters.

The show tried its hardest to seem “hip” for the 1980s. Thus, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe became a restaurant and video arcade. The gang also dressed in “hip” 80s fashions, i.e. the era’s garish clothing designs and colors. Even Jughead’s trademark hat was neon-pink colored!

One episode features Mr. Weatherbee (trying to impress Miss Grundy) dressing like the leads in “Miami Vice” for a school dance. However, Veronica’s clothes and general style (down to a “Valley Girl” accent) might stand out as the most dated element of the series.

Unlike the earlier Filmation series, the animation quality was an improvement. DIC (the producers of “Inspector Gadget”) produced the series.

“The New Archies” only lasted one season. My guesses why it was short-lived:

  • Stiff competition. ABC aired “The Flintstone Kids,” a more successful “kid version of adult characters” series. CBS aired “Teen Wolf” (based on the popular film) and “Dennis the Menace.”
  • Not enough difference in setting and stories from the regular high school version. It’s basically “Archie and company before they got their driver’s licenses.” Ironically, I watched this show first-run when I was about the same age as “The New Archies” cast. While I enjoyed it, I do vaguely recall thinking about their usual high school selves while watching.

Cast

Since the show was set halfway between the comics’ long-running “Little Archie” stories (set during the gang’s grade-school days) and the normal high school setting, the series offered an odd mix of characters from both eras. Archie’s childhood dog Spotty (renamed “Red”) appeared on “The New Archies,” as did childhood bully Fangs Fogarty as one of the show’s antagonists.

However, high school-setting-only secondary characters such as Moose Mason also appeared. Similar to Riverdale Elementary in “Little Archie,” Riverdale High’s faculty—Ms. Grundy, Mr. Weatherbee, Coach Kleats, and even Ms. Beazly the cafeteria lady—all worked at Riverdale Junior High.

Several characters from the usual high school setting didn’t appear in this series: Chuck Clayton, Dilton Doiley, and Nancy Woods. Instead, “The New Archies” featured two new characters: Eugene, an African-American boy; and Amani, an African-American girl.

While Amani was similar to Nancy (a nondescript nice girl who often hung out with Betty and Veronica), Eugene was a genius inventor similar to Dilton. Eugene’s personality was similar to Dilton’s, down to dressing conservatively and being milquetoast.

One episode featured an invention of Eugene’s causing him to swap minds with Moose. Another episode focused on the boys trying to help Eugene ask Amani out; meanwhile, the girls (not knowing about the boys) tried to do the same for Amani.

Other media

“The New Archies” briefly had a spin-off comic published. Unlike the Little Archie stories, which’re still deemed canonical, “The New Archies” was quickly forgotten. Reprints occasionally appear in the digests.

Additionally, Eugene and Amani never made the jump to the regular books as characters. (I’d imagine Dilton makes Eugene alone redundant.)

Voice actors

Colin Waterman voiced Eugene This show’s apparently his only professional acting/voice work.

Karen Burthwright voiced Amani. Burthwright later appeared as a character in the “Blues Brothers” sequel “Blues Brothers 2000.”

(Updated 11/18/16)

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