Monday, May 25, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Harlem Globetrotters

If you turn on the TV and hear someone whistling "Sweet Georgia Brown," you know what's coming next: a performance by the Harlem Globetrotters.

This exhibition basketball team -- founded in the mid-1920s -- has played more than 20,000 games in its lifetime.  

And though the team members -- by necessity -- must change, the team itself has been a staple of pop-culture TV and history going on nearly fifty years.

From 1970 - 1973 on CBS (and later NBC), for example, The Harlem Globetrotters starred on their own animated TV series from Hanna Barbera, playing -- essentially -- traveling superhero heroes/detectives.  

In 1974, The Harlem Globetrotters stayed on Saturday morning TV, but in a new format. They headlined The Harlem Globetrotters' Popcorn Machine, a live-action variety show airing on CBS.

And, in 1979, Hanna Barbera returned with a sequel animated series for the team, the more fanciful , more fantasy-oriented The Super Globetrotters.

Through the decades, the Globetrotters have also been guest-stars on a number of TV programs, or made-for-TV movies.  

The most famous (or infamous) of these may just be The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981), a TV-movie "reunion" of the Gilligan's Island (1964 - 1967) cast. In this case, the Globetrotters had to set down on the castaways' island after their plan was caught in a storm over the Pacific.  Before long the players were forced into on-the-court combat against the evil robot basketball team (The New Invincibles) of villains played by Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.

The Globetrotters also appeared twice on the high-school basketball drama The White Shadow (1978 - 1981), and once on The Love Boat (1977-1987).  In the episode "Hoopla," the Globetrotters played a game against the crew of the Pacific Princess.

In addition to appearances on The New Scooby Doo, the Globetrotters also became recurring (and beloved) characters on Matt Groening's Futurama (1999 - 2013). In this case, the team members were brilliant scientists from the Globetrotter Homeworld.

In 2009, team-members appeared on the reality series, The Amazing Race (2001 - present) )

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