Sunday, January 06, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Jackson, Jordan, and Gretzky are ProStars -- "It's All About Helping Kids"

For a brief spell in the late '80s and early '90s, there was a rash of Saturday Morning cartoons based on real life personalities. For awhile there, you could tune in on any given weekend and see Rick Moranis, John Candy, Macauley Culkin, MC Hammer, and even the New Kids on the Block all given the animated treatment. Pretty much without exception, these shows put their celeb stars into off-kilter situations and let the stories (such as they were) go from there. Back in 1991, sports stars Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Bo Jackson were practically superheroes to kids everywhere anyway, so why not re-imagine them as superheroes? Thus was born NBC's ProStars. Here, watch the intro:


I love how the intro starts by emblazoning "Hot! Cool! Jammin'! Slammin'!" all over the screen,  as if to say, "Yes kids, you will like it. And in case you don't, observe these market-tested buzzwords."

In case that animation isn't a dead giveaway, ProStars was another escapee from notorious crap factory DiC, which I've lambasted plenty of times before. As with other similar such cartoons, every ep would start with live action intros depicting the titular trio as they set up this week's adventure. They were all filmed separately but made to appear as if they're interacting with each other -- I'd show you but I can't find any examples online. At that stage, all three athletes (especially Jordan) were at the pinnacle of their fame, and I doubt they had much involvement beyond cashing the checks (even the voices were provided by soundalikes).

Like so many other artifacts I discuss here in Nostalgia Theater, ProStars is less notable for its content than what it represents. Certainly, it speaks to the outsize personalities of its three stars, who'd all built reputations for themselves that dwarfed their sport of choice (two sports, in Jackson's case) to become true all around superstars. I don't follow sports very much today, but it sure doesn't seem like we have three comparable athletes with the all-around appeal that would let them be plugged easily into the same formula. ProStars didn't last past its initial thirteen episodes in fall of 1991, but it nonetheless remains a unique marker of the era it came from.

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