Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2021)
Evidence of my masochism: the existence of this review. If the fact I decided to watch 1972’s TV series Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space doesn’t prove I like to torture myself, I don’t know what is.
1971-72’s Josie and the Pussycats hit Blu-ray a few months prior to this 2-disc “Complete Series” package for Outer Space. To say that I didn’t enjoy the earlier show would stand as an understatement.
Oh, I got some nostalgia warm ‘n’ fuzzies from Pussycats, as it reminded me of my time with Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. As an adult, however, the series seemed borderline unwatchable, as it lacked any form of cleverness, wit or fun.
Pussycats only lasted 16 episodes before it got canned, but the folks at Hanna-Barbera decided the franchise still boasted potential. Rather than offer ludicrous adventures of a rock band on Earth, Outer Space sends Josie (voiced by Janet Waldo) and friends away in a rocketship.
The series’ opening credits explains this shift – vaguely. It shows Josie and pals as they pose for photographers in front of a spaceship when Josie’s foe Alexandra (Sherry Alberoni) hogs the stage and accidentally knocks the whole gang into the craft.
Alexandra also happens to pull the “launch” lever that sends the vehicle on its way. Why did Josie and company pose in front of the ship? Why did the engineers create a craft that takes off with so little effort?
I have no idea, and the show never gives us much info. Perhaps I should feel grateful that the opening credits at least imply how Josie etc. found themselves lost in space, but it still feels like first episode “Where’s Josie?” could give us a little basic information beyond the loosey-goosey credits’ hints.
“Where’s” does act as the “pilot”, at least from the point of view that it seems to capture the Pussycats right after their inadvertent launch. They all adapt to this situation awfully rapidly and seemed strangely unaffected by the fact they’re now sent into space with no clue how to return.
Oh, each episode tends to show Josie and pals as they wonder about how they can get home, but those elements seem minor at best. Instead, Outer Space mainly acts as a cheesy take on Star Trek, one in which the human characters find themselves on a never-ending sequence of encounters with alien beings.
Antagonistic alien beings, that is, as virtually every civilization Josie and company encounter comes with megalomania at its core. A few exceptions occur – such as with the misunderstood “Huge-Os” of “The Sun Haters” – but most of the time, we get cackling despots who want to cause evil of some sort.
Of course, it becomes up to Josie and the others to stop them, which they inevitably do – in their predictable way. The characters all continue to same trajectories from the Earth-bound series, for better or for worse.
I’ll go “for worse” because the roles seem so monotonous. Josie and hunky Alan (Jerry Dexter) show zero personality – indeed, Josie herself is such a dud that she usually feels like a supporting character in her own series.
Brainy Valerie (Barbara Periot) doesn’t fare much better. She acts as the series’ resident genius, but she offers no real charisma or distinguishing elements otherwise.
Alexandra remains egotistical and conniving, Alexander (Casey Kasem) continues to provide a whiny coward, and Melody (Jackie Joseph) still does little more than giggle and spout inane non-sequitors. On their own, the roles offer potential fun, but the series so beats these one-dimensional traits into the ground that they become tedious almost immediately.
The only change to the main cast comes from the addition of alien creature “Bleep” to the proceedings. We still find Alexandra’s cat Sebastian, though the feline seems neutered and no longer Alexandra’s partner in crime. Sebastian more just seems like a generic pet, and though he comes from another world, Bleep does little more than resemble a housepet.
Not only do the series’ characters lack spark, but also the stories tend to feel lackluster. As noted, they almost always concentrate on the sinister plans of tyrannical characters, and the shows can’t find much entertainment in these endeavors.
Actually, the core stories sometimes come with creativity, as I can sense the potential for good shows. No, Outer Space doesn’t threaten the strengths of Star Trek, but I’d estimate at least half the episode bring possible cleverness.
Unfortunately, Outer Space so relentlessly dumbs down everything that the programs become a chore to watch. Flattened to their cheesy Saturday morning core, the episodes never manage to exploit their potential fun.
Outer Space does work better than the original Pussycats, if just because its setting and concept embrace the idiocy on display. In the earlier series, it never made sense that a rock band experienced all the mysteries and intrigue they found.
Like I noted at the start, it doesn’t make sense here that a rock band finds themselves lost in space. However, the series’ premise seems so silly that it becomes easier to swallow the ridiculous material.
That said, I still can’t stomach the cheap and witless exploration of the characters and stories, partially because Outer Space does occasionally tease us with actually cleverness. Though an improvement on Josie and the Pussycats, Outer Space becomes just another bad Saturday morning cartoon best left to your nostalgic memories.