Wednesday, January 22, 2014

James Bond Jr [1991]: Episodes 1-20

Without a doubt, one of the most curious curios in all of the James Bond canon is James Bond Jr, an animated cartoon television series aimed at children for one season during the early nineties.

My personal history with the series has been, until now, nonexistent.  I was beginning my senior year of high school when this series started airing, and had no interest in kiddie toons.  Even if I had possessed such an interest, I was only dimly aware of the existence of James Bond Jr.  I cannot even be certain that it aired in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

What I am certain of is that I spent years and years and years laboring under the illusion that the series was in no way connected to the James Bond movies or books.  I assumed that the title was permissible on the grounds of being a parody or something, and that the cartoon was, in essence, a ripoff that somebody had managed to slip through the cracks.  That is, those were my assumptions merely to whatever extent I gave the cartoon's existence any thought at all; but since that was nearly nil, I'm not sure you can even call them full-fledged assumptions.  Really, they are 2014-era assumptions of what my 1991-era assumptions would have been.

Truth be told, I essentially knew nothing of James Bond Jr.  For example, I certainly did not know that the show was -- as its Wikipedia article puts it -- produced "in association with" (and, therefore, sanctioned by) the various companies who held the rights to produce the Bond films, i.e., Danjaq and United Artists.  Or that it was seemingly based, at least in part, on 003½: The Adventures of James Bond Junior, a 1967 spinoff from Glidrose written by the pseudonymous "R.D. Mascott" (whose identity remains a mystery).  It featured a character named James Bond Junior who was the nephew of the real 007, but is otherwise unrelated to the cartoon.

I've done a small-ish amount of digging on the Internet for information about the specifics of the show's genesis.  Not enough so that I feel I've scoured the Internet, mind you; but enough so that I do feel secure in saying that information is, at best, hard to come by.  At worst, it is nonexistent, which has so far been my experience of it.

What I can tell you is this: the series seems perhaps to have been produced as a stopgap measure designed to bring in a modicum of money during the legal disputes that prevented a film from being produced between 1989's Licence to Kill and 1995's GoldenEye.  Michael G. Wilson may or may not have had an active hand in its creation (he IS credited as a developer); the show may or may not have been made merely to prevent Kevin McClory from producing his own animated Bond series; the show may or may not have been intended to prepare/indoctrinate a new generation of Bond fans for the eventual return of the series.  None of that is certain.

What we DO know is that information is hard to come by, as are episodes of the series.  (I found them all via either YouTube or, um, some other site whose name I cannot seem to remember; a handful are in German-dubbed form and therefore incomprehensible to my 'murican ears.)  The series has seemingly never been released on home video; a few episodes trickled out via VHS releases years ago, but are long out of print.  All signs point to the idea that the rights-holders are successfully attempting to suppress as much knowledge of the show as is humanly possible, and that makes it seem even more likely that everyone involved wishes it had never happened.

So . . . does that mean that the series was purely a cash-grab during lean times?  Or, instead, a preventative action taken against a potential competitor?  Both, even?  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

I'm positive that there is a behind-the-scenes story here, just waiting to be told.  I hope to hear it someday.  Until then, though, I can only speculate with a shrug.

I wrote all of the foregoing prior to launching into the actual watching of the series, which I am going to begin in a matter of minutes.  I do not know what awaits me.  I suspect the series sucks the high hard one; I suspect further that watching all 65 episodes is going to be brutal, agonizing, and odious.  But for blog and country, I am determined to watch every single one of them.  I am going to split the viewing up into four different posts: three covering the episodes themselves, and a final one wherein I foolishly attempt to apply to Double-0 Rating system to the series.

Pray for me as I begin this quest.


Well, THAT should give us all a pretty good indication of what we're in for.

Episode 1: "The Beginning"

airdate:  September 16, 1991
written by:  Francis Moss and Ted Perdersen


Jaws


(Before we proceed, a book-keeping issue needs to be mentioned, regarding the airdates: I am basing  these on the listings I found here at TV.com.  I have no earthly idea if they are accurate or not, but since TV.com is using them, I'm going to use them, too.)