More TV Memories – Wacky Races.

Wacky Races (CBS, 1968-1969)

This is a cartoon that was first shown on American TV in the late-60s. I am not really a big fan of cartoons from as long ago as this, but it is one of the classics from this era, and I do remember watching and enjoying it, so it deserves a review. And as we will see, it has had plenty of repeats and spin-offs. It’s another one that was produced by Hanna-Barbera.

Wacky Races was indeed a rather silly cartoon that featured lots of hot racing action. It featured 11 cars racing against each other, travelling for miles and miles across various American states and beyond. They were all aiming to finish first, and they would stop at nothing to try and be the one to meet the chequered flag and be declared “World’s Wackiest Racer”. vlcsnap-00185

The cars also had names and numbers, and among the drivers were Peter Perfect, The Ant Hill Mob, Professor Pat Pending, Penelope Pitstop, The Slag Brothers, and The Gruesome Twosome. There was also The Arkansas Chuggabug that rather confused me as one of the passengers was a big bear. How that would help them win I’m not sure, and it wouldn’t exceed several regulations as well? I doubt that was within the rules. vlcsnap-00173

The best-known characters though were the duo of Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley in The Mean Machine with the number 00. They had no problem with cheating, and they would do anything to try and gain an advantage and take first place. These plans always went wrong though, and they would end up being disqualified or finishing nowhere, at which point Muttley would simply laugh at their endless misfortune. vlcsnap-00174

But they kept trying with these various plans even though they were always doomed to failure, with an almost Wile E Coyote-style attitude to constantly trying even though it was always going to be to their disadvantage and you wondered why they bothered. All of this was accompanied by some breathless commentary, and there were some very close finishes. Although there was no overall series champion declared, the car with the most podium finishes was The Slag Brothers. Well done them! vlcsnap-00188

There were 17 episodes of Wacky Races, containing two races each, making 34. It was shown a lot on the BBC throughout the 70s and 80s, and it was still being shown into the 90s on Cartoon Network. The show was popular enough for there to be two spin-offs in the late-60s/early-70s. Firstly there was Dastardly And Muttley In Their Flying Machines (known for the “Stop The Pigeon” song). vlcsnap-00187

And there was also The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop (and even now when I see that name I still think of the show’s catchphrase “hay-elp!”). I remember watching both of these too, and there was also an advert based on Wacky Races that was on TV in the 90s for Eagle Star Direct. There have also been plenty of games. I think that all of the episodes have been released on DVD too, but I haven’t got round to buying that one.

7 thoughts on “More TV Memories – Wacky Races.

  1. Michael says:

    Hey Adam Beckwith, I like Wacky Races with Penelope Pitstop and Dick Dastardly and Muttley as well as two shows Dastardly & Muttley In Their Flying Machines and the Perils Of Penelope Pitstop which are all by Hanna Barbera (also now part of Warner Bros).

    Penelope Pitstop is my favourite character in Wacky Races because she has long blond hair in a full fringe, she wears a purple racer helmet with goggles, a dark pink rider jacket with a purple turtleneck and purple gloves, pink skirt with red pants underneath and white boots and was voiced by the late Janet Waldo who died on June 12 2016 at the age of 97 of a brain tumor.

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    • Wacky Races is coming to MeTV channel in 2023 together with Moby Dick & Mighty Mightor Young Gulliver Shazzan Birdman & Galaxy Trio Space Ghost Herculoids & others to TV screens again.

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      • Michael says:

        You must be joking Wayne Moises.

        On a side note, i think Wacky Races, Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Top Cat, Hong Kong Phooey, Where’s Huddles?, Clue Club, Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch, Fangface (by Ruby-Spears Enterprises), A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Yogi’s Treasure Hunt, The New Yogi Bear Show (1988) and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo are probably one of the only Hanna-Barbera shows as well as Batman (1966 TV series) which didn’t have the 2003 Warner Bros Television logo which features the 1984 WB shield, the banner inscription saying WARNER BROS. TELEVISION and the WB URL saying “www.warnerbros.com”.

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  2. Classic animated comedy sports adventure TV series inspired from 1965 film Tge Great Race featuring Dick Dastardly & his pet dog Muttley & his racing team aired on CBS Network from 1968-70 for two seasons in sequels & spinoffs & a live action film from the creators of Space Jam film series coming soon to Warner Bros.

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  3. Des Elmes says:

    With respect, I’m not sure I would pick a favourite character in a cartoon *solely* based on what they look like – although I certainly do get the love for Penelope Pitstop and her style. 😉

    In any case, my favourite WR characters have to be Dastardly and Muttley – if only because it’s always fun to laugh *at* Dastardly and his endless misfortunes, and *with* Muttley at Dastardly and his endless misfortunes. Muttley’s laugh will never get old, either.

    Mind you, they did get done in “Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist”, when they actually did cross the line first but the judges didn’t like the prospect of them winning and so changed the footage. Bastards. (Again, imagination’s a wonderful thing… ;))

    I do wonder if William H and Joseph B intended to make more than 17 episodes, and hence more than 34 races – or if it might have always been the intention to leave it to the viewers to determine the World’s Wackiest Racer for themselves. If one goes by total top-three finishes, then the Slag Brothers do indeed take this title – and the same if one goes by almost any kind of points system. (They won three times, finished second eight times, and finished third another three times – so awarding at least three points for a win, at least two for second, and at least one for third (and, of course, always awarding more points for first than for second, and for second than for third) gives them at least 28 points.)

    But if one goes by wins then seconds then thirds, then the title goes to the Ant Hill Mob, with their four wins and five seconds. Penelope Pitstop would be the runner-up with her four wins, two seconds and five thirds, edging out Peter Perfect with his four wins, two seconds and two thirds. The Slag Brothers would only come fifth, behind Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear, the only other racers to win four times.

    Safe to say that, half a century(!) on, everyone has been awarded the title one way or another – even Dastardly and Muttley. 😉

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