The earliest kids' show I can recall watching with any regularity, and probably still one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
In the grand tradition of "The Man from Uncle", "Secret Agent", and "The Avengers", comes this late 60s spy series, with a twist.
The twist? It was done ENTIRELY with live chimps acting out the roles of the characters, with voiceover artists providing the dialog. It was incredibly funny watching the chimps talk, brandish weapons, drive cars, ski, and doing just about anything we higher-order primates are capable of... and probably with more sincere acting!
Lancelot Link is a brilliant (though slightly inept) secret agent with the Agency to Prevent Evil (APE) fighting to thwart the evil schemes of CHUMP - a renegade syndicate bent on world domination, run by a vicious Baron, and his horde of evil-doers. Trotting around the globe waging a covert war against CHUMP, Link is aided in his battle against the forces of evil by his trusty lady agent sidekick, Matta Hairy, as they carry out the orders of the venerable Commander Darwin (who usually runs afoul of Link's attempts to be helpful).
The show provides a big tip of the hat to "Get Smart", which it parodies mercilessly (a spoof of a spy spoof!). Veteran character actor Bernie Kopell (Conrad Siegfried on Get Smart, and Doc on The Love Boat) even reads the role of the villainous Baron in all his "Goot Evenink Shmart!" nastiness. The episodes were always filled with simian puns (a rock group called "The Evolution Revolution", etc.) The Baron's Rogues Gallery of Bad Guys included the despicable strong monkey, Creto, the Hong Kong-based Dragon Woman, and the despicable Dr. Strangemind.
The real fun of this piece is that after a few minutes, you get so involved in the plot and the action that you almost forget you are watching a group of live monkeys performing tricks. You really begin to believe that they can talk and do all that other stuff. I loved it as a kid, and years later when a local affiliate ran a few reruns, I loved it as a teenager. I imagine if I see it again on cable, I will love it as an adult.
This series was semi-recreated years later on Fox with a series of bumpers for their Saturday morning series, called "Dynamo Duck" - a secret agent baby duckling thwarting the evil plans of guinea pigs, lab mice, and other small creatures. A little hipper and edgier than Link, but it's Link that everyone remembers.
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