The Deputy Dawg Show was the first made-for-TV all-cartoon effort from the Terrytoons studio. It premiered in syndication in 1959. Radio personality Dayton Allen provided all the voices.
Deputy Dawg was the none-too-bright lawman in a backwoods Tennessee precinct, Creekmud Junction (the show's creator, Larz Bourne, hailed from Tennessee). His efforts to keep law and order yielded mixed results, what with Muskie Muskrat and his pals—Ty Coon, Al E. Gator and Vincent Van Gopher—stirring up trouble. Deputy Dawg also had to report to his superior, the Sheriff (the lone human in a cast of Funny Animals).
The show was as controversial as it was successful. As its main concentration of stations were in the south, many saw it as a metaphor of the end days of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Deputy Dawg, first a pale blue-gray then pure white—was the avatar of Caucasian police, and Muskie, painted brown, was the African-American trying to outwit him. Even when Deputy Dawg made live appearances (an actor in a suit), audiences in those locales were segregated. Still, the show netted its sponsor, Lay's Potato Chips, a nice revenue windfall.
In 1971, The Deputy Dawg Show made its network TV debut on NBC Saturday mornings. It ran just that season.
Ralph Bakshi owes his career to this show, as he made his professional debut as an animator here. He later further made his directorial debut in the final production season, when he handled several episodes.
Deputy Dawg, Muskie Muskrat, and Vincent Van Gopher were featured in the unsuccessful Animated Anthology pilot Curbside, where they were voiced by Billy West, Rob Paulsen, and Charlie Adler respectively.
This series provides examples of:
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Deputy Dawg wears a vest, pants and hat; Muskie a pair of beige shorts; Vince an artist's beret, a white collar and black tie.
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: A pink flamingo seeks sanctuary in the precinct from his owner, but his vanity issues start to get on Deputy Dawg's nerves.
- Art Evolution: As noted, Deputy Dawg was first a pale blue-gray, and he was given a hound dog's jowls. He was later refined and painted pure white.
- Birthday Episode:
- "All Tuckered Out" takes place on Deputy Dawg's birthday and has him too sleepy to celebrate it because he's worn out from chasing after a rabbit he had to arrest.
- "Home Cookin'" has Muskie Muskrat attempt to steal a pie that he assumes Deputy Dawg's wife baked for Dpeuty Dawg's birthday. It eventually turns out that it is actually Muskie's birthday.
- Breakout Character: Astronut the Alien appeared in the first episode of the show then a few more and ended up having his own spinoff series. Also Possible Possum had his own set of theatrical shorts.
- Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': One episode, "The Fragrant Vagrant," has a homeless Smelly Skunk named Lonesome Luke, desperate for food and shelter, trying to get arrested so he can sleep in his jail cell. Deputy, however, is aware of what he's doing and spends the episode trying to stop him from committing a crime before it happens, not wanting his jail cell stenched up.
- Another episode had Muskie doing this when Deputy Dawg puts the henhouse inside the jail cell for protection by pretending to beat up Vincent so he can get arrested for assault and battery. Deputy, however, sees through this and was not successful.
- Catchphrase: Vince's "What happened? What happened?" And nearly everybody says "Hoo-wee!" or "Dagnabbit!"
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: About midway through the series, Al E. Gator and Ty Coon disappeared and were never seen again.
- Comically Missing the Point: Deputy Dawg. He's approached by a bull who has run away from his bullfights:Bull: I seek political asylum.Deputy Dawg: Political asylum...nope. Nobody here by that name!
- Crossover: Muskie appears with Dick Tracy in a commercial for Soaky, a bubble bath in containers designed as popular cartoon characters.
- Dark Horse Victory: In "People's Choice," Deputy Dawg thinks he's got his re-election as deputy cinched. The other animals stuff the ballot box with Vincent Van Gopher's name, making him the new deputy. Muskie and Ty Coon think they've got the run of the land, unaware that Vince is actually upholding the law and thwarting them.
- Diet Episode: Deputy Dawg is forced to go on a diet in the episode "Physical Fatness".
- Early-Bird Cameo: Some incidental characters were spun off into other shows. The little blue space alien became Astronut, Mischa Mouse became Macon Mouse in the Possible Possum series, and the Long Island Duckling became Duckwood (paired up with a con artist named Donkey Otie).
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: "The Governor's Guide" ends with Muskie, Vincent, Deputy Dawg, and the sheriff laughing together.
- Eyes Always Shut: Vincent Van Gopher is perpetually squinting.
- Fat Idiot: Deputy Dawg is overweight and is pretty dumb because of all the times Muskie and his friends outwit him.
- Friendly Enemy: This is Deputy Dawg's general relationship with Muskie and his cohorts. He's frequently out to arrest them for causing trouble, but will just as often be on good terms with them.
- HeelFace Turn: Sometimes, Muskie and Vince will help Deputy Dawg with some cases.
- Hypocritical Humor: In "The Yoke's On You," Muskie reads the sign at the hen house fence out loud—"Keep Out, This Means You"—then looks to the camera and says "Now ol' Deputy Dawg knows I can't read writin'!"
- Malaproper: Sprinkled throughout. In "Seize You Later, Alligator," DD tells the mammoth Indian fighting Al E. Gator that he was serving him with a habeas corpus because "You hit him on his habeas and almost made a corpus of him!"
- In "The Fragrant Vagrant," Deputy Dawg complains "Why does everything happen in my jurisdictionary?!"
- Mirror-Cracking Ugly: "Duped Deputy" has Muskie, Vincent, and Ty disguise themselves as a criminal named Sid E. Slicker. Muskie is at the top and does a "mirror test", which results in a mirror cracking once he looks at it.
- Punny Name: Ty Coon and Vincent Van Gopher.
- Shout-Out: In the Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy, his character, Bobby Boucher is wearing Deputy Dawg pajamas. When his mother brings this up to his girlfriend Vicki in trying to dissuade her from seeing him, Vicki responds "I find Deputy Dawg very...very...sexy."
- Retool: Possible Possum, who eventually appeared in the series and spun off to his own cartoon, was initially supposed to be the main character. But the show as originally pitched bore too much of a resemblance to Pogo, and Terrytoons demanded it changed, fearing legal action. But the first few episodes were already in mid-production, so Possible was hastily re-painted into Muskie Muskrat. The early episodes bear traces of this original plan: Muskie often hangs from trees by his tail like an opossum, he uses the catchphrase "It's possible, it's possible", and most flagrantly, every time a character says "Muskie" or "Muskrat", there is a noticeable audio splice, implying Dayton Allen had to dub in the new dialogue at the last minute.
- Signature Laugh: Deputy Dawg's "Hyuk-yuk-yuk-eeeee!"
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Deputy Dawg appears in the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures episode "Mighty's Wedlock Whimsy." He's presiding over the wedding of Mighty Mouse and Pearl Pureheart, but he begins the ceremony with "You have the right to remain silent..."
- Strong Family Resemblance: Deputy Dawg's nephew Elmer resembles a miniature version of him, which causes Muskie Muskrat and Ty Coon to assume that their julep has caused Deputy Dawg to shrink.
- Totem Pole Trench: Muskie Muskrat, Ty Coon, and Vincent Van Gopher stand on top of each other to disguise themselves as a crook named Sid E. Slicker in "Duped Deputy".
- Went to the Great X in the Sky: "Double Barreled Boom Boom" has a duck beatnik find himself held at gunpoint by a French hypnotist. He pleads for his life by saying that he isn't ready to "make the scene in the big swamp in the sky".