Saturday, April 08, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Lidsville: "Let's Hear it For Whizzo"

Chief Sitting Duck gives Mark (Butch Patrick) and Weenie (Billie Hayes) a map of a trail that should lead Mark back home (though it leads through the Hair Forest) 

Mark says his sad goodbyes to Lidsville, but after he leaves, Hoo-Doo (Charles Nelson Reilly) and his minions strike.

They evict all the people of town for not paying back taxes, and threaten them with magical reprisals -- zaps -- if they don’t obey.

Mark learns what has occurred back at Lidsville and returns to town immediately. Once he meets with his friends, he realizes he must “out magic” the magician, to keep Hoo-Doo scared and prevent him from returning for his tax money.

Coming up with a plan, Mark and the others create an alter-ego for Mark: Whizzo, a “first rate” magician with powers to challenge anyone.

At high-noon, Whizzo challenges Hoo-Doo to a magic duel, but Mark’s powers are all tricks created by Weenie and the others.

The fifth episode of Lidsville (1971-1973) may be its most entertaining one yet. In this story, Mark and the denizens of “the world of hats” strike back against the overbearing Hoo-Doo.  The rub is that they have to do so without benefit of magic, instead resorting to tricks, gimmicks and illusions.  So Mark goes in disguise as “Whizzo,” and actually beats Hoo-Doo at his own game.

This set-up proves that team-work may be more powerful than destructive forces, and simultaneously exposes Hoo-Doo as a coward.  The scenes involving Hoo-Doo and Mark “dueling” are well-done, and tons of fun. There are lots of pyrotechnics, jokes, and even a little tensions (when Weenie is late detonating fireworks).

I also find quite fascinating the central threat of this episode. Hoo-Doo wants to collect back taxes, and “forecloses” on all the properties of Lidsville. 

In other words, he is a heartless representative of the modern -- or 1970s -- tax state. John Fenton Murray, the author of this story, could have picked any motivation for Hoo-Doo to kick people out of their homes. He could have wanted territory, or he could have wanted to build something.  Instead, we get him as a wicked tax collector!

Lidsville is a Saturday morning series, but it’s clear that the makers of the show understood that some adults were watching. Why else the comical threat of an aggressive, zap-happy tax collector?  Future episodes return to this covert commentary on modern politics.

Finally, one last note. “Let’s Hear it for Whizzo” does a superb job of juxtaposing Hoo-Doo’s cowardice with Mark’s heroism. Mark might know a way home (which, of course, he promptly forgets next episode…) but he doesn’t take advantage of it. He doesn’t think of himself first. Instead, he goes back to help his friends. 

By contrast, Hoo-Doo runs away from a challenge, tail tucked between his legs.

Next week: “Is There a Mayor in The House?”

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the tax collector has always been the villain through history and entertainment from the Roman Empire to Charles Dickens novels to The Three Stooges to Lidsville! Perfect timeless bad guy.