Sunday, September 07, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Run, Joe, Run -- It's The Fugitive With a Dog

Run, Joe, Run was a live action Saturday morning series that aired on NBC and premiered exactly forty years ago today, September 7, 1974. Seeing as how it preceded me into the world by a few (five) years, there's really no reason I should have any memory of it all, except for the fact that they showed it in Saudi Arabia, where pop culture was ten years behind at any given time. Even so, those memories are so fleeting and jumbled that I had to do some Googling to figure out what the heck the thing was even about, as most of my recollections center on the theme music, which you can hear in the intro (and outro) below:

So essentially it's The Fugitive with a dog. But where Richard Kimble was accused of murdering his wife, Joe was accused of attacking his trainer. Doesn't seem like the two offenses are exactly comparable, but nonetheless, just like Kimble, Joe is doggedly (sorry) pursued across the country by the authorities, to be put to sleep when found. And the Fugitive comparison applies to more than just the basic premise, by the way. Every week, Joe would encounter various individuals going through some difficulty, and he would help them (as only a German Shepherd) can before moving on, one step ahead of the military.

Seriously, does that sound ridiculous to anyone else? Maybe I'll get into trouble for this, but isn't that just a bit too much awareness to expect from a freakin' dog? Anyway, in its second season Run, Joe, Run was actually the lead-in to the Peacock's animated Planet of the Apes, and for that second year, they ditched the element of Joe being pursued by his trainer (Arch Whiting), and had him become the pet of a hiker played by Chad States (at which point the title really should have been changed to Amble, Joe, Amble). Here's the tweaked intro for year two, which reflects this new status quo:

I'm sorry, but the juxtaposition of that super dramatic theme music and the voice-of-God from Paul Frees (remember when he told us the world had ended?) combine to make this whole thing unintentionally hilarious. Presumably kiddie audiences felt the same way, as Joe stopped running after his second year's batch of thirteen episodes. The show has been almost completely forgotten in the four decades since it premiered, and I doubt very much that we'll ever see an official DVD release, but hey, thanks to the magic of the YouTube era we live in, you can still watch the entire series anyway. Check out episode 1 below:

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