Sunday, December 02, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: The Centurions -- Power Extreme!

The Centurions was a mid-'80s animated show that, like so many similar offerings, was as much about selling toys as telling stories. That notwithstanding, it was actually a pretty decent show that holds up reasonably well today. Produced by animation house Ruby-Spears, the show centered on a group of three special operatives in the near future who, with a shouted "Power extreme!" use modular power suits to equip with a variety of gadgets and gewgaws with which to make battle with evil Doc Terror, hell-bent on conquering the planet. Here, watch the intro for the full skinny:

(Ah, just hearing that intro takes me back, which is what Nostalgia Theater is all about, after all.)

While Centurions had an action figure component courtesy of Kenner, the animated show was actually developed first. Nonetheless, it was a concept practically engineered to sell toys. Each of the three Centurions has an environmental specialty that conveniently connects with their names (i.e. Ace McCloud is the sky guy, Jake Rockwell specializes in land-based combat, Max Ray focuses on oceans), and each is helpfully, toyetically equipped with several different attachments that connect to the various slots in their power suits. Here's one of the myriad of TV spots hyping the toys:

Like G.I. Joe before it, The Centurions premiered with a five-part miniseries in fall of '85, the success of which led to a 60-episode second season the next fall. Unfortunately, even with a solid concept and solid execution (and with a fairly impressive roster of sci-fi writers contributing episode scripts), Centurions didn't do well enough at the toy aisle to warrant the series' continuation. I can't say for certain, but I'm willing to bet that what did the line in wasn't lack of quality, but rather simple economics.

While the figures were well designed, they were also more expensive than your usual action figure, and the need to continually add to their "wardrobe" a la Barbie probably struck more than a few parents as cost-prohibitive. I know that's why I was never able to own one of the main good guys. In fact, the only Centurions figure I ever got close to was a remaindered Doc Terror figure picked up in the bargain bin in summer of '87, after the line was already discontinued. And make no mistake, that guy sucked. Hard.

While there's no full series DVD release for Centurions just yet, the initial five-parter was put out by Warner Bros. (which acquired the Ruby-Spears catalogue in the early '90s) via their special manufacture-on-demand division. I'd assume that the rest of the run will probably make its way to platter format before too long as well. The Centurions doesn't quite retain the same cultural cache that some of its other animated siblings from the same era do, but it's a fun show all the same, and it deserves to be dusted off and given a new look.

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