You ever have one of those shows you think you remember but just barely? You go looking for it online; you even remember the name and the basic premise, but you still can’t find it? Then one day you just happen to get lucky and stumble on it? That’s me and a show from Saturday Morning history called Pandamonium, a show I basically remember because I still have old comics with Saturday morning advertisements.
Airing on CBS for one season in 1982-1983, the show follows the adventures of two teenagers who stumble upon a plot by an evil space wizard to gather all the pieces of the show’s maguffin in order to rule everything. Joining the teens are three talking pandas who can merge into a super panda and save the day. That’s what I remembered, but the show itself is actually a bit of a letdown. Or at least the pilot we’ll be watching tonight is.
The concept I can work with. Mondraggor tries to steal the Pyramid Of Power but it decides to blow itself up and send the pieces to Earth. Two kids and three talking pandas have to collect the pieces and keep the Pyramid out of Mondraggor’s hands. In times of trouble they form Poppapanda, a super-panda that can ward off evil magic. That works for me. It’s the execution that doesn’t live up. It’s weird seeing a Marvel Productions show with a laugh track. They didn’t do a lot of comedy shows that I can recall. I didn’t even know this was a Marvel Productions piece until I saw it again. I don’t think the wacky hijinks work alongside the threat. It feels more like an early days Ruby-Spears, before they got good.
The part that really feels like a dropped ball are the pandas of the title. I don’t know if “all worlds” refers to space or the multiverse but why are Chesty, Algernon, and Timothy ordinary Earth pandas that can talk and fuse together with no real explanation. There are two good ideas. Have them enchanted by the piece of the Pyramid they found, possibly a portion of whatever intelligence the Pyramid has to become its protectors. Or have them also come from another world charged with protecting the Pyramid and having failed once against Mondraggor have to now collect the pieces. The humans are fine the way they are. They’re rich to explain how they can travel around the world. Fair enough. Also, drop the laugh track. If the panda trio are a bunch of goofballs who still have the responsibility of protecting the macguffin then fine, but in this case the laugh track was distracting, partially because they didn’t use it well, and partly because it’s so out-of-place in a Marvel Productions tale. I also hope later episodes toned the goofball antics down a bit and the strange deus ex machinas (like those magic waters that have no explanation) limited or at least explained.
I still want to look at some more episodes but I kind of understand why it only lasted one season if this was the norm. And that’s too bad because I like the idea. It just doesn’t work in practice.