I’ve decided that now and then I’ll have a look back at some retro video game-themed TV shows, and where better to start than possibly the most popular video game character of all-time in the form of Super Mario? I actually didn’t watch this particular version of the Mario cartoon back in the day, as by the time I was tuning in to watch, they were showing the cartoon based around Super Mario Bros. 3, and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show was no more. However, I have seen the odd episode over the years, and my overriding thought has been that it’s silly but also has some fun zaniness at times as well.
Thankfully, the entire series seems to be uploaded to YouTube, so I’ll be dipping in and out now and then to review a few episodes at a time. This time out we’ll be looking at the first three episodes in the series and rating them on the 5 Star scale. For those not au fait with such a thing, ***** is the highest rating an episode can have and DUD is the lowest. So without further ado, let’s settle down for some Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
Episode 1 – The Bird! The Bird!
Firstly, we have to talk about the bizarre intro music, which features rapping to the classic Super Mario NES theme. It’s all kinds of silly, but I can’t deny that I don’t enjoy it. Lou Albano (Mario) and Danny Wells (Luigi) dancing along to it only makes it nuttier. The addition of a magic carpet makes me think they are going for a combination of the 1st and 2nd Super Mario games, especially as Princess Toadstool and Toad himself are main characters. The episodes themselves are a mixture of live action sketches from Albano and Wells and animated stories featuring Mario and chums taking on the evil King Koopa. The live action sketches aren’t exactly top quality acting, and they have a wacky laughter track dubbed over them, but they have the sort of slapdash charm that kids TV sometimes has.
The main story of the animated skits is that Mario and Luigi have been sucked down a drainpipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and have sided with Princess Toadstool in her battles with King Koopa in an effort to find a way back home to Brooklyn. Episode 1 sees them stuck in an Ice World and getting bothered by Super Mario 2 character Birdo, who ends up kidnapping Toad.
Ah yes, Toad. I’m not going to say he’s the most annoying character in television history, but he’s certainly in the top one. The twist is that Birdo can’t see properly and thinks that Toad is her baby, thus leading to all kinds of “hilarious” hi-jinx where Toad tries to escape whilst Mario, Luigi and the Princess try to rescue him.
As lousy as the Toad and Birdo stuff is, the bits with Mario, Luigi and the Princess scaling up a mountain to try and rescue him whilst Koopa’s minions go after them has some decent action and is rather entertaining. We also get our first look at a power-up, with the Fire Flower making an appearance so that some treacherous ice can be melted away.
Overall, it’s not a terrible debut episode as they introduce that the Mario Bros. can use power-ups and also let us get a look at what the Mushroom Kingdom is like. Some of the gags feel a bit forced, but I chuckled a couple of times and generally enjoyed myself. I’d certainly keep watching if I was a Mario fan who stumbled across this back in the day. And of course, we end with Captain Lou doing “The Mario”, which is like a less elegant Macarena, if you can imagine such a thing!
Episode 2 – King Mario of Cramalot
The main plot of the live action section sees Mario and Luigi taking in “Patty the Sad-Eyed Orphan” and throwing her a birthday party, which goes about as well as you’d expect it to, especially as she may not be what she seems. Meanwhile, the animated plot is all about the gang visiting the Kingdom of Cramalot in order to ask Mervin the Magician for help. Oh yeah, that’s where they go with it.
The voice actor playing Mervin is pretty funny, and he reveals that if Mario can pull out the golden plunger from the stone bathtub, then he can become king of Cramalot. Mario does indeed manage this, and thus hilarity ensues. As far as wacky interpretations of Arthurian legends go, this one is certainly one of the wackier ones I’ve seen.
One funny gag involves Mario contemplating how things could get worse for the heroes, which then leads to all of those things happening whilst his friends get progressively more annoyed with him. We also get one of the better “Luigi is a coward” moments, where he fakes being pregnant to avoid swimming a moat.
Overall, this is a decent episode, with some good, funny gags and some exciting action too. The live action bits aren’t on par with the animated sections this time out, but the animated bits make up for most of the running time and are really what we’re here to see anyway, so the episode gets a thumbs up.
Episode 3 – Butch Mario & the Luigi Kid
The live action story this time centres around Mario and Luigi fixing wrestling star Sgt. Slaughter’s Steam-O-Matic in time for when the grumpy grappler shows up to collect it. Being a fan of both professional wrestling and Super Mario, seeing the two worlds combined like this gave me a wry smile. The animated story sees Koopa kidnapping the Princess and keeping her in a Wild West-styled town. So yeah, the Mushroom Kingdom has one of those for whatever reason. They missed that one out of the games, sadly. We do get to see Mowser from Super Mario Bros. 2 in this one, working as a henchman for Koopa, and he seems to have some kind of vague European-styled accent because “Accents = Comedy”, I guess?
Speaking of Super Mario Bros. 2, we even get a version of the waterfall log jumping sections from that game here. This series is such a bizarre combination of the first and second Mario games, and I kind of love it. It makes me wonder what a video game made up of the best elements of both of those games would be like. You could have Koopa and Wart feuding with one another and eventually have one of them do a face turn to help out Mario. I’d play that!
Some of the animation is a bit iffy here, with a shot of Mario, Luigi and Toad fleeing on ostrichback being followed by one where they are standing outside the place they just tried escaping from, clearly not fleeing and just waiting around. Obviously, that was one of the pratfalls you could fall into during the 80s due to how much animating stuff cost, meaning that certain scenes would have to be re-used to pad the action out.
This one is a fun episode, with Mowser being an entertaining henchman, and the Western theme being done well as they replace guns with fireball-firing lizards. We also get an example of Mario and Luigi using their plumbing abilities to save the day. The stuff with Sgt. Slaughter is good too and an occasion where the live action skits are on par with the animated action.
I had fun with these, and I can totally get the appeal of the show as well. They use just enough from the games for it to be fun for a fan, but they also include enough of their own wacky spin on things so that a non-fan could still enjoy it. I look forward to watching more of these down the line!