Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: I Am the Greatest -- The Muhammad Ali Cartoon Show?

Here's another one from the "Yes, this exists" file. As we've discussed here a few times, there's this weird subgroup of kidvid where they take a real life personality, translate them to animation, and turn it into a TV series. We saw this phenomenon in the '80s with this, and in the '90s with this and this, but one of the earliest exemplars of the form came in 1977, when Muhammad Ali, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, one of the most visible and popular athletes of that (or any moment), hit Saturday mornings on NBC. The result was...well, take a look:

The only reason I became aware of this show was because in the mid-'80s it happened to air in Saudi Arabia (where I'm convinced they had some kind of pneumatic pipeline to America where all the crappy TV rejects would just be shunted over -- that's the only explanation I can think of for how I was able to keep seeing these things). I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali was incredibly similar in format to the Mr. T show that came a few years later. The Champ traveled the country with two young wards in tow, tackling various bad guys real and supernatural.

As you can tell from the opening sequence, though he spent plenty of time fighting alligators and space monsters, none of his adventures involved him actually, y'know, boxing, weirdly enough, which I remember being a bit disappointing. Also like the T cartoon, Ali actually provided his own voice, though given the quality of what we ended up with, I'm not sure that's as much of a feather in the show's cap as we'd think. I Am the Greatest lasted for thirteen episodes on the Peacock and then disappeared from the air by fall of '78. No DVDs have shown up yet, and if anyone is out there clamoring for them, well, I'd suggest finding another hobby.

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