If you were a kid growing up in the 1960s or 1970s, then you probably remember the ritual of getting up early on Saturday mornings, setting up a bowl of cereal and watching what felt like an endless stream of cartoons and live action kid shows like H.R. Pufnstuf. Or maybe it was Friday nights when you’d laugh, sing and dance along with Donny and Marie or the short-lived The Brady Bunch Hour. Whichever it might be, one thing that those and a lot of other shows have in common is the fact that they were created by Sid & Marty Krofft Productions. Sadly, Marty’s family has announced that he passed away on November 25 at the age of 86.
Marty was born on April 9, 1937 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He and his brother, Sid, began working together in the 1950s, both of them turning a fascination with puppets into a career. To this end, in 1957 they developed a mature puppet show under the name Les Poupees de Paris, and would make their television premiere on The Dean Martin Show in 1965. They got their first chance to serve as producers on the Hanna-Barbera show The Banana Splits, the brothers creating the costumed hosts of the show that would have live-action segments set around cartoon shorts. Those characters made up a bubblegum rock group consisting of beagle Fleegle, ape Bingo, lion Drooper and elephant Snorky.
“Joseph Barbara came to see me, because he didn’t know how to do this idea yet,” Marty told Closer Weekly in 2019. “This was live-action and he’d only done animation. Oddly enough, this was our dress rehearsal for Pufnstuf, which we had introduced at the 1968 World’s Fair. But with The Banana Splits, it started with us creating and building the characters, refining them and making them all workable. Joe would come to our studio probably every week and he’d run everything by me.”
The Banana Splits put the Kroffts on the map, and quickly led to them producing quite a number of shows for Saturday mornings (see the list below), many of which have continued to live on. But then they shifted to prime time, creating the 1976 to 1979 Donny and Marie variety show, which brought Donny and Marie Osmond to our television screens every week and played no small role in allowing that brother and sister act to continue periodically all these years later.
Not as successful, but certainly a bizarre experiment, was the 1976 to 1977 The Brady Bunch Hour, a variety show that took the characters from the classic TV sitcom The Brady Bunch and has them serve as hosts – in character — of their own TV show.
In tribute to the late Marty Krofft, and as a thank you for all those hours of entertainment he and his brother Sid (who is 94) gave us, what follows is a look at 10 of their most cherished television creations.
‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ (1969 to 1971)
British actor Jack Wild plays Jimmy, a boy lured to a living island by an enchanted boat, which is being manipulated by Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), who is desperate to get her hands on a magic flute that is in Jimmy’s hands. Helping him once he gets to the island is the Mayor, H.R. Pufnstuf, a walking and talking dragon. He’s also helped by other members of the community. Like many of the Krofft efforts, very surreal, driving home the real meaning behind the name of the show. In 1970, Universal Pictures released a big screen version.
‘The Bugaloos’ (1970 to 1972)
The title characters are a musical group consisting of four British teenagers — three guys and a girl — dressed in insect-like costumes who can not only sing, but fly as well. Their enemy on the show is Martha Raye’s Benita Bizarre. A good word for the show itself, which was certainly different from anything else on Saturday mornings.
‘Lidsville’ (1971 to 1973)
Butch Patrick (little Eddie Munster on The Munsters) plays a kid named Mark, who falls into the hat of Merio the Magician (played by Charles Nelson Reilly) and finds himself in Lidsville, a land of living hats — who act the way that humans wearing them would.
‘Sigmund and the Sea Monsters’ (1973 to 1975)
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973 to 1975): Johnny Whitaker(Family Affair) and Scott Kolden play brothers Johnny and Scott Stuart, who come across a friendly sea monster named Sigmund (yes, the premise is that simple), who has been abandoned by others of his kind, because he refuses to scare people. They take him home and have to try to hide his existence from everyone.
‘Land of the Lost’ (1974 to 1977)
Following a powerful earthquake, Rick Marshall and his kids, Will and Holly, find themselves trapped on a parallel world where dinosaurs exist and so does a violent reptilian (though humanoid) race known as the Sleestak. It ain’t Jurassic Park, but it’s still fun. A new version was created in 1991.
‘Far Out Space Nuts’ (1975)
The set-up is that a couple of NASA maintenance workers accidentally launch themselves into space and start encountering various aliens that are out there. Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island) plays Junior, while Chuck McCann is his partner, Barney. The alien guy in the middle of that photo above is Honk, played by Patty Maloney.
‘The Lost Saucer’ (1975 to 1976)
Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi (respectively coming off Gomer Pyle, USMC and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) play a pair of friendly androids who travel from the future to the present and then take off from Earth, inadvertently taking a boy named Jerry (played by Jarrod Johnson) and Alice (Alice Playten), his babysitter, with them. However, when their ship’s controls are damaged, they are unable to bring the two of them back to their exact time, so, instead, get involved in one wacky adventure in time after another.
‘The Krofft Supershow’ (1976 to 1978)
More or less a variety show for Saturday mornings, it presented short scripted adventures in every episode. Over the course of its run, it featured the following series: Dr. Shrinker (teenagers are shrunk by a mad scientist on an uncharted island and have to figure out how to survive), Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (a superhero show featuring a pre-soap opera Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis as the title characters, at a time when prime time was offering shows like The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman), Wonderbug (teens discover when they attach a magic horn to their old dune buggy, it brings the vehicle to life), Magic Mongo (the wacky adventures of three teens who find and release a magic genie); and Bigfoot and Wildboy (a kid abandoned in the forest is raised by Bigfoot — no, seriously).
‘Donny & Marie’ (1976 to 1979)
There was something about the wholesomeness of The Osmonds in general and Donny and Marie in particular that appealed to the audience of the 1970s, and this variety show captured it all. Running for four seasons it featured many of the comedy and musical acts of the time in a wide variety of comedy sketches or musical numbers. It was also responsible for a spin-off in the form of The Brady Bunch Hour.
‘The Brady Bunch Hour’ (1976 to 1977)
Check out the concept of this one: ABC chose the fictional Bradys to star in a new variety show. They must have seen the “Amateur Hour” episode and were impressed. To do so, Mike gave up his career in architecture and moved the family to Southern California. There were guest stars, skits, music numbers, and then looks at the Brady’s home life. The only cast member who chose not to return was Eve Plumb as Jan, who was replaced on screen (but not in our hearts) by Geri Reischl. The seeds for this show were actually planted when then ABC president Fred Silverman reunited the cast for an episode of the Donny & Marie show. That appearance turned out to be such a ratings success that he spun the Bradys off into their own show. Nine episodes were produced.