Humble shoe shining boy by day, the heroic Underdog springs into action whenever he hears a call for help. Despite his numerous blunders along the way, Underdog always manages to save the day from his iconic rogues’ gallery.
“No need to fear, Underdog is here!” When that theme song first begins, you can taste the Cheerios and feel the shag carpet beneath your legs. This show was built for Saturday mornings and because of that, it holds its place in cartoon history. Beloved by longtime superhero fans and entertaining to newcomers, Underdog has carved out a special space in the hearts of those who grew up alongside it.
But a show cannot get by on sentimentality alone. Lesser toons have faded for far less, but the technicality of Underdog’s animation stands the test of time fairly well. It’s smooth. It’s cohesive. It marks the beauty of those 1960s toons that is hard to find outside of the Hanna-Barbera classics and it does so with the utmost dedication to entertainment.
Outside of being many young peoples’ first introduction to the rhyming couplet, the show’s writing stands out as well. From the very first episode, it becomes clear that the series parodies the very same genre that it works within. Underdog is a Super Spoof, and although it can’t possibly be compared to heavy hitters like Watchmen or Deadpool, it’s self-referential nature is worth a mention. It’s not uncommon to see Underdog clumsily bumble his way to an inevitable success, oftentimes causing damage to various sites within the city or to personal property. When confronted with these issues, Underdog is dismissive as he states: “I am a hero who never fails; I cannot be bothered with such details.”
This is an idea we still see in our superhero media today, be it via The Incredibles, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or one of the countless comic runs across all publishers that continue to explore storylines surrounding civic responsibility in a growing geopolitical climate. When do superheroes need to be held accountable for their actions? At what point does vigilantism hurt more than it heals? Underdog did not originate the question of proportionate justice—in fact, superheroes didn’t even originate it—but its acknowledgement of this still-prevalent idea so early on in the genre displays a certain level of sophistication.
Yet, impressively, there was a level of silliness that was maintained within these greater questions. Those who remember the show are likely to look back on it with fond memories of ridiculousness because this show was, at its core, trying to entertain. It wasn’t some great, big think piece on superheroes. It wasn’t designed to restructure the entire playing field. Underdog simply set out to engage its audiences by giving them adventure, excitement, and an accessible hero. It was a recipe for success.
Although there is still some discussion about the total lack of social sensitivity in the show, all in all, Underdog stands the test of time. Its themes are the grassroots for what would later come in the world of superheroes, with the charm of the classic toons.
Underdog: No Need to Fear
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 6/106/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 6/106/10
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