Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 17, 2020)
An offspring of the Archie Comics universe, Josie and the Pussycats first saw life in 1962, when it focused solely on teen Josie McCoy until she created a band in 1969. By 1970, the series proved popular enough to spawn its own short-lived animated TV series.
How short-lived? Pussycats lasted a mere 16 episodes before it got the boot, though a spinoff with an equally brief tenure came to life in 1972 via the 16-episode run of Josie and the Pussycats In Outer Space.
With this two-disc Blu-ray set, we get all 16 shows from the original Pussycats. Normally I’d review each episode on its own, but… I just can’t.
Rather than describe the content of each program, Wikipedia offers a pretty good synopsis that sums up the gist of what to find per show:
“Each episode found the Pussycats and crew en route to perform a gig or record a song in some exotic location where, somehow - often due to something Alexandra (voiced by Sherry Alberoni) did - they became mixed up in an adventure. The antagonist was always a diabolical mad scientist, spy, or criminal who wanted to take over the world using some high-tech device.
“The Pussycats usually found themselves in possession of the plans for an invention, an item of interest to the villains, a secret spy message, etc., and the villains chased them to retrieve it. Eventually, the Pussycats would ruin the villain's plans, resulting in a final chase sequence set to a Pussycats song.”
“With the villain captured, the Pussycats would return to their gig or recording session, and the final gag was always one of Alexandra's failed attempts to interfere with the Pussycats' performance or steal Alan M. (Jerry Dexter) away from Josie (Judy Waite).”
Does every episode follow that theme to a “T”? No, but that synopsis seems close enough to prove more than workable.
I was only three when Pussycats hit the air, so if I saw it first run, I maintain no memory of that. However, the series enjoyed life as reruns that kept it on TV through the mid-70s – prime Saturday morning cartoon time for me, so I watched it during that span.
Add to that the fact I loved Archie Comics in that span and Pussycats should endear itself to me due to basic nostalgia, at least. However, pining for one’s youth only goes so far, and my fond memories of the 70s can’t overcome the basic awfulness of Pussycats.
Though Pussycats comes from the Archie universe, it owes a much greater debt to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You, another animated series that debuted a year earlier. Rather than focus on real-life stories of the young characters, the TV Pussycats emulates the adventures of Scooby and his pals.
I never loved Scooby-Doo, but compared to Pussycats, it looks like prime Simpsons. Witless and uncreative, Pussycats feels like nothing more than the Scooby rip-off it is.
Apparently the comic books took on this style of story once the series began, but before that, Josie and pals more typically fit into the Archie universe of teen relationships and tribulations. I have no idea how the comics explained this shift.
Not that the pre-1970 Pussycats lived in a totally reality-based world, as Alexandra adopted a cat named Sebastian in late 1969. It turned out that Sebastian was the reincarnation of an ancient ancestor and he allowed Alexandra to possess magical powers.
This didn’t last long, but still, it feels like the kind of gimmick that this wacky TV show would want to use. Nothing else about the Pussycats series relates to real life, so why not toss in magic as well?
The more episodes of Pussycats I watched, the more accurate that Wikipedia synopsis seemed. The series brings us shows that turn redundant quickly, especially because it comes with such inert characters.
Despite the series’ title, Alexandra acts as its main character. She does way more to motivate the stories than anyone else, and she becomes one of the handful of roles to display any semblance of personality.
Really, only Alexandra, Alexander and Melody manage to offer any kind of clear traits. Alexandra is a conniving bitch, Melody is a ditzy blonde, and Alexander is a less stoned Shaggy Rogers.
As for the other three, they seem like total nobodies. Shouldn’t the series’ title character show at least some form of personality?
Yes, but Josie lacks even the most basic sense of character, so she turns into a void at the series’ heart. Valerie is essentially Smarter Josie, while Alan M. simply becomes a dull hunk.
I will admit Pussycats gets marginally better as it goes, mainly because it takes itself less seriously. Not that the early episodes create drama, but they seem light on much comedy.
During the second half of the series, the programs take on a more overt push toward laughs – or potential laughs, as none of these gags connect. Still, the lighter tone benefits Pussycats, as the heavy emphasis on action and adventure earlier in the year becomes a massive drag.
Despite these shifts, Pussycats can’t escape its existence as a cheap Scooby-Doo knockoff. Heck, various baddies even refer to “those meddling kids”, the ultimate Scooby-Doo cliché!
Perhaps 50-somethings who watched Pussycats in their youth might enjoy a romp down Memory Lane with these 16 shows, but I can’t imagine that nostalgia will carry them the whole way. Even by the low standards of Saturday morning cartoons, this series seems inane.