By the time this came on the air I was getting a little old for Saturday Morning Cartoons, but I watched them anyway, especially when they featured one of my favorite comic book characters, the Thing, who is basically a super-strong hero who looks like he's composed of orange rocks.
I kind of wondered about the title, but by then I'd caught on to the gimmick of two kids' shows being packaged into a "super-show" or "power hour" or whatever. The real idea was to pair two 1/2 hour shows together so young viewers would watch the whole hour.
The Thing and Fred & Barney only appeared together in the credits and some quick bits throughout the show. I didn't mind these so much, as the Thing is kind of a comic character, having four fingers like most "funny" cartoon characters, as well as a Brooklyn accent and a "Bowery Boy" demeanor.
Being the weaker of the two shows, the Thing got sandwiched in between the Fred and Barney segments. Here's where it got disappointing. The Thing was now "Benjy" Grimm, a scrawny red-haired teenager who could turn into the the title character by using a "Thing-Ring."(One episode explained that the Thing was originally a middle-aged test pilot like he was in the comics; he became "Benjy" when an attempt to turn him human again misfired.) Worse, there were no super-villains, only the Yancy Street Gang, a group of comical punks. Funny super-heroics I don't mind. Trite super-heroics is another, er, thing.
As for the Fred and Barney segments, they were like watching the Honeymooners' later reunion shows - Still great characters, but no one could think of anything new for them to do.
Apparently the Thing show flopped, because it was soon retitled "Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo" and showed "Shmoo" episodes with Fred and Barney, though I think the Thing segments were still part of it.
Still, I was glad the Thing at least got on the air. In the 70s, superhero fans took what they could get. Now Superheroes star in video games and big-budget movies every other week, and I barely even check them out. Go figure.
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