Staying Curious: What We Learned from a Unwatchable Show…

AMC’s Mad Men series is part way through its last season. For a while now, it has fallen off the list of “must see” TV. In fact, this season, we have resorted to reading the recaps from AdAge and Barbara Lippert’s Mad Blog before deciding whether to invest time actually viewing episodes.


AMC Promo Shot

A Grand Discovery!
Our curious minds were set off on a fantastic adventure after reading the latest AdAgewrite-up. Towards the end, there was a reference to “Lou Avery’s passion project comic strip” that he defended by pointing to the cartoon “Underdog.”

What surprised us was Underdog’s origin — the cartoon series created by a couple of executives Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (in MM, that was Lou’s at his old agency).

In 1960, they created “Underdog” as a way for client General Mills to get its products in front of kids on Saturday mornings. Shortly thereafter, they left the agency and created Total Television, a production company that would actually fold in 1969 upon losing General Mills as a sponsor.


Also, while researching Underdog, we found in the Wikipedia entry a reference to an album of Saturday Morning Cartoon song covers by bands like Butthole Surfers, Ramones, etc. It was released in 1995 in the “Alternative Rock” category.

1995 Alternative Rock Album

1995 Alternative Rock Album

Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits is a tribute album of songs from Saturday morning children’s television shows and cartoons (mostly) from the 1960s and 1970s. The project was produced by Ralph Sall, with the songs performed by alternative rock artists. It was released in 1995 by MCA on LP, CD, and cassette, and peaked at #67 on the Billboard 200. Promotion for the album included a comic book from Marvel Comics and a music video collection hosted by Drew Barrymore (MCA Home Video MCAV-11348).

So we wandered off to music land for a nice diversion as we checked out the video on YouTube of the Butthole Surfers performing the Underdog Theme.
While there, we also decided that The Ramones doing SpiderMan was kind of cool.


But we digress, back to the “Ad Men” responsible for “Underdog,” we found an obituary which appeared in The New York Times for W. Watts Biggers, who died fairly recently (2013).


NYT Obit Snapshot


Here’s an excerpt:

W. Watts Biggers, who with a partner created the 1960s cartoon “Underdog” as a way to sell cereal and wrote its infectious theme song, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Manomet, Mass. He was 85.

Mr. Biggers was an account manager at the advertising firm Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the early 1960s when he and Chet Stover, a copywriter, began conceiving a cartoon show to advertise General Mills cereals.

Mr. Biggers and Mr. Stover talked over dozens of ideas, but nothing seemed right. They knew that they would be competing for a morning time slot with Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who had created “Rocky & Bullwinkle.”

“We were going to be the underdog,” Mr. Biggers recalled saying to Mr. Stover. The idea stuck, giving birth to Underdog, a humble shoe shiner who would be transformed into a superhero, especially whenever the reporter Sweet Polly Purebred was threatened. It won the slot and made its debut on NBC in 1964.

“Underdog” proved so popular that Mr. Biggers and Mr. Stover left advertising to start a production company, Total Television, with Joe Harris and Treadwell Covington. They wrote more than 100 episodes of “Underdog,” and Mr. Biggers, the composer of the group, wrote the theme music for the company’s cartoons. (He also credited his partners Mr. Stovers, Mr. Harris and Mr. Covington.)

Very interesting back story for sure.

And, we were pleasantly surprised to find out he was born on June 2, 1927 (fits our Jedemi profile).


So to recap (the recap). Mad Men has become unwatchable (and to us, very much a Soap Opera which, by the way, was invented, quite literally, to sell soap), yet we still made some fantastic discoveries by letting ourselves wander serendipitously down the path. Just goes to show you that with a proactive and curious mind, you can learn so much each and every day. We continue to amaze ourselves!

Stay curious my friends!


Here’s how our adventure “mapped” out. Click to enlarge.

The Mad Men / Underdog Adventure

The Mad Men / Underdog Adventure



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  1. TheGang says:

    The headline tripped us up.

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