One of Total Television's most famous Animated Series, Underdog was a canine parody of Superman which debuted on NBC in 1964 and moved to CBS in 1966. Usually, each half-hour episode consisted of two chapters of a four-part Underdog story, separated by an unrelated TTV short.Underdog's alter ego was "humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy". When summoned by TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebrednote "Oh where, oh where has my Underdog gone? Oh where, oh where can he be?", Shoeshine Boy dashed into the nearest phone booth and emerged in his heroic costume. For some unexplained reason, Underdog always spoke in rhyme. His foes included the mad scientist Dr. Simon Bar Sinister and his henchman, Cad Lackey (voice caricatures of Lionel Barrymore and Humphrey Bogart), and the lupine crime boss Riff Raff (based on George Raft).Supporting segments included Tennessee Tuxedo And His Tales, Go Go Gophers and Klondike Kat. The series' voice talent included Wally Cox as Underdog/Shoeshine Boy and Norma McMillan as Sweet Polly Purebred.A live-action film that just happened to be calledUnderdog was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2007.Underdog also inspired a well-remembered, well-loved Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon, as evidenced by this commercial, made 35 years after the balloon's debut.You might've heard the theme song thanks to being Sampled Up by Wu-Tang Clan on their "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit". Parts of the Underdog theme song could also be heard in Wheels!, an Apple Macintosh game aimed at disabled children.(For the Japanese manga of the same name, click here)
Arranged Marriage: Underdog was forced into a marriage with an alien princess in "Zot." He doesn't follow through, though, and the princess marries someone else. And that's after Underdog defeats a Two-headed dragon that was menacing the aliens, also making it an inversion of Rescue Romance.
Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: In one episode, Shoeshine Boy is part of a group taken prisoner by aliens and forced to lead a coup in his civilian identity until sufficient chaos arises to allow him to transform without being noticed.
Cool Gate: Simon Bar Sinister has one bearing his surname.
Counterfeit Cash: The opening of every episode shows a customer tossing a nickel to Shoeshine Boy, and Shoeshine Boy biting the nickel. This was an old trick dating back to The Great Depression, to tell if a nickel was real or just a wooden disc painted to look vaguely nickel-like. (He was adhering to the old adage "Don't take any wooden nickels!")
Criminal Doppelgänger: One of Underdog's enemies was his exact double, Tap-Tap the Chiseler, who didn't have any of Underdog's powers. It didn't stop Tap-Tap from using Underdog's image to get stuff like bombs without anyone batting an eye.
Subverted in "The Phony Booths", where Polly takes it upon herself to stop the Phony Booths. By that time, Simon Bar Sinister has gotten Underdog under his control, so he sends Underdog to stop Polly. However, Love Redeems, and because of this, Polly saves Underdog for a change.
Dumb Muscle / Evil Minion: Cad to Simon, as well as Mooch to Riff Raff. Then again, they're not much dumber than the average citizen on this show.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first cartoon has little in common with the others. There's no Sweet Polly (it remains the only cartoon she's not in), no villain, no Cliff Hanger, and Underdog is a completely moronic, bumbling idiot Jerkass who demolishes two banks to rescue a boy trapped in a bank vault (at first, Underdog goes to the wrong bank by mistake). The rest of the series portrays Underdog as much more competent.
Evil Counterpart: With a hero called Underdog, it was practically inevitable that there would be a villain named Overcat. He's unlike Underdog in every way: whereas Underdog is a small, good-natured dog who uses his powers to help others, Overcat is a hulking, loudmouthed Jerkass cat who uses his own powers to bully his entire planet into submission.
Flying Brick: Although Underdog is occasionally described as having a "computer-like brain" and sometimes devises clever solutions to problems, he's basically a spoof of Superman.
Furry Confusion: Humans and talking animals living together? Say what you want about The Movie but at least it makes a point of averting this.
Grand Finale: Vacuum Gun. Simon brings several old villains, including Electric Eel and Batty Man, Back for the Finale. The end of the episode apparently has all the villains Killed Off for Real when, after Simon tries to use the Vacuum Gun for the last time on Underdog, Underdog uses his "Atomic Breath" and sucks all the villains and the Vacuum Gun towards him, uses the Vacuum Gun on the villains, then exhales into the Vacuum Gun, causing it to explode.
Hero Insurance: Few superheroes cause more collateral damage than Underdog. He'll even do things like break off the top of a skyscraper to use as a weapon against some giant monster Underdog frequently lampshades this destructiveness, especially in early episodes.
Underdog: I am a hero who never fails;/ I can't be concerned with such details.
Now Let Me Carry You: More often than not, circumstances would contrive to make a weakened Underdog lose access to his ring, requiring Polly to find it or otherwise protect him in the second act. The two make a great team!
Psycho Electro: Electric Eel, who acquired his power from an electrified prison fence.
Radio Drama: Had a one-off one in 1999, produced for Boston-area radio stations by co-creator W. Watts Biggers, to help promote his Victory over Violence organization; Biggers himself played Underdog, while Boston newscaster Tom Ellis narrated. Here, Barsinister was using his new "Switchpitch" baseball, to turn positive people negative, and become king of Boston; his plans were foiled as usual by Underdog and Polly.
Rogues Gallery: For most of the show's run, Underdog had exactly two recurring enemies: Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff. For the Grand Finale, Simon recruits Raff along with 2 other villians introduced in the final season, Batty Man and Electric Eel.
Worthless Yellow Rocks: The cloud people of "The Silver Thieves" need silver but have nothing but a planet full of worthless gold! They apparently also assumed gold is just as worthless to humans, as Polly has to tell them We Could Have Avoided All This if they had offered to trade gold for silver on Earth instead of stealing it.