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Western Animation / The Dick Tracy Show

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The Dick Tracy Show is an American animated TV series based on Chester Gould's comic strip crime fighter. The series was produced by UPA for syndication in the 1961/62 season and was farmed out to three studios (Jack Kinney, Larry Harmon and Grantray-Lawrence) as UPA had closed down its animation unit. The series consisted of 130 five-minute episodes, and each station used its own on-camera presenter, usually dressed in a police uniform.

Instead of pursuing the criminals himself, Tracy assigned the cases to various second-stringers:

  • Joe Jitsu, an Japanese detective.
  • Go-Go Gomez, a laid-back Mexican master of disguise who could move surprisingly fast.
  • Heap O'Calory, a stereotype Irish-American policeman.
  • Hemlock Holmes, a British-accented bulldog who was accompanied by the Retouchables, a group similar to the Keystone Kops.

Despite the show's title, Dick Tracy usually appeared at the beginning of the cartoon to assign the case, then only twice more in each animated segment. Once would be in the middle of the action, when the good guy would shout, "Hold everything!" At that point all the action would freeze, and the hero would call Tracy on his two-way wrist radio to fill Tracy in on how things were progressing. The action would resume when Tracy radioed back, "Six-two and even...Over and out!" The last time Tracy would be seen was at the end, to praise his men for their good work. On rare occasions Tracy showed up on screen during the story to get involved.

The series was revamped and re-syndicated in 1990 to take advantage of the publicity surrounding Warren Beatty's big screen version of the character. The Joe Jitsu and Go-Go Gomez cartoons were initially rebroadcast as part of the package, although they were soon pulled and only Heap O'Calory and Hemlock Homes cartoons remained. Tracy would appear in animation again in 1971 as a segment of Filmation's Archie's TV Funnies, which was a much more faithful adaptation to the comic strip of that time.

Tropes That Appear in The Dick Tracy Show

  • Actor Allusion: In The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo installment "Dick Tracy and the Mob," Tracy observes a rap sheet and photo of hitman Squinty Eyes, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Magoo. The notes on him include that he sounds like Jim Backus (who voiced Magoo and Squinty Eyes).
  • Advertised Extra: Dick Tracy himself, despite being the title character and appearing in much of the marketing material, is usually absent for most of each episode. Generally he appears in the episode intro, ending and a brief appearance midway through.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Joe Jitsu. He barely strains a sinew while applying this to the criminals.
  • An Aesop: Joe Jitsu in "The Casbah Express": "If at first you don't succeed, oh, you better give up!"
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: One villain, Pruneface has purple skin. Oodles, another villain, has blue hair and light blue skin.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Joe Jitsu. It's hard to say whether this is a form of Japanese Politeness in effect or Sarcasm Mode.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Joe Jitsu, especially when he's meting out punishment to the villains. ("So solly. Excuse, prease.")
  • Beatnik: Nick, the confidant who communicates tips of a crime to Heap O'Calory with bongo drums.
  • Book Ends: Hemlock Holmes was the police officer in the first episode ("Red Hot Riding Hoods") and the last ("The Chinese Cookie Caper").
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to several characters throughout the show.
  • Bully Bulldog: Averted with Hemlock Holmes.
  • Busman's Holiday: In "Tacos Tangle," Joe Jitsu is on his way to Mexico for vacation when Tracy calls to report that B.B. Eyes is in Mexico, having skipped parole. Joe consigns himself to mixing business with pleasure.
  • Camp Gay: The jeweler in "Trick or Treat."
  • Canon Foreigner: Cheater Gunsmoke never appeared in the comic strip.
  • Chromosome Casting: Except for the brief appearance of a female in some episodes, such as the girl Go-Go Gomez is wooing at the start of his episodes, the show is one big sausage fest.
  • Cigar Chomper: B.B. Eyes, the Brow and Cheater Gunsmoke are all seen with a stogie. Stooge Viller, Pruneface and Sketch Paree each have a cigarette in a cigarette holder.
  • Cold Open: Inverted with a number of episodes in its initial run which used teasers before the opening titles.
  • Cool Cat: At the end of "Mardi Gras Grab," Joe Jitsu joins in with the carnival by disguising himself as a brown one and playing saxophone.
  • Counterfeit Cash: In "Champ Chumps," Joe Jitsu is out to break up a counterfeit money ring from Stooge and Mumbles. When Joe knocks on the door asking for change for a $10 bill, he gets back a $7 bill and a $3 bill.
  • Counting to Potato: "Rocket and Roll" had Stooge and Mumbles about to launch Hemlock Holmes and the Retouchables in a rocket to the moon. When Joe Jitsu gets the drop on them, Stooge starts counting down fast, causing the rocket to creep upwards. Joe counters by counting back up fast, causing the rocket to descend back.
  • Courtroom Antics: "Court Jester" had Stooge Viller and Mumbles on trial for forgery, only Stooge has taken it on the lam. The prosecution can't get Mumbles to admit they're guilty because nobody can understand his mumbling without Stooge there to decipher it.
  • Crossover: In 1965, Tracy appeared in an episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, in which Tracy entreats Magoo to impersonate an international hitman and infiltrate a nest of villains (B.B. Eyes, Flattop, Pruneface, the Mole, etc.). In contrast to the cartoons of both characters, this episode plays it mainly straight.
    • An early 1960s commercial for Soaky, a bubble bath in containers resembling popular cartoon stars, features Tracy and Muskie Muskrat from The Deputy Dawg Show. The spot was animated at Terrytoons and featured the voices of Everett Sloane (Tracy) and Dayton Allen (Muskie).
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Hemlock Holmes may be a bumbler, but he's never cowered to the criminals he goes after.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In "The Vile Inn Case," Joe Jitsu uses invisible paint to cover up his car while he's investigating a crime by the Brow and Oodles. When the crooks chase him, Joe cannot find his now-invisible car. It's only when Oodles leaps for him and slams into the car door that Joe is able to find it.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • At the end of the episode "Hawaiian Guy," Joe Jitsu radios to Tracy that the case is wrapped up but is now distracted by a "moving bush." He has his eyes on a hula girl in a grass skirt.
    • Likewise in "Smashing the Ring Ring," Joe is distracted by what sounds like a rather provocative feature in the nickelodeon he's viewing.
    • Heap O'Calorie was briefly distracted by a peep show in "Penny Ante Caper".
    • Go Go Gomez in "The Copy Cat Caper" is pulling down some maps from the four sides of the city to determine which bank Sketch Paree and the Mole are going to hit with Paree using a Dick Tracy mask. When he pulls down the southside map, it's actually a picture of a rather buxom girl with her phone number.
  • Distressed Dude: Tracy in "The Manor Monster", "Kidnap Trap" and "The Copped Copper Caper", the Retouchables in "The Retouchables" and "Choo Choo Boo Boo".
  • Dog Stereotype: Hemlock Holmes is an English Bulldog with an English accent.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Go-Go Gomez made his first appearances in two Mr. Magoo shorts prior to this series: "Requiem for a Bull" and "Fuel in the Sun".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Tracy looked nothing like Chester Gould's figure in the first episode "Red Hot Riding Hoods," which may be attributed to Ray Patterson's direction of the episode. Ensuing episodes had Tracy looking like the comic strip Tracy. Also, Hemlock Homes' radio sign-off in that episode was "Roger Dodger, over and out."
  • Edutainment Show: Several of the first episodes had an interstitial narrated by Tracy about law enforcement.
  • Expy:
  • The Faceless: Cheater Gunsmoke, who appeared in only two cartoons. His face is always covered with gun smoke and it has a cigar protruding through it.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Averted. As where the Dick Tracy comic strip was quite serious, harrowing and violent, the cartoon here is toned down to a more kid-friendly slapstick with the occasional bloodless gunfire or sudden artillery like cannons and such.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Every character has four fingers except for Tracy, who has five fingers.
  • Gargle Blaster: Dr. Von Stooker's "invisibility formula" in "Lab Grab" is actually formulas from a book of chemical failures that Joe Jitsu planted on the Brow and Oodles. It had notably adverse effects on them as they crack like glass and crumble to the floor.
  • Harmless Freezing: Joe Jitsu does this to Stooge and Mumbles in "Cooked Crooks" while Go-Go Gomez does this to Pruneface and Itchy in "Snow Job."
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "The Elephant Caper," Sketch Paree and the Mole are at a hotel with a foreign dignitary's elephant they are holding for ransom. Joe Jitsu impersonates a bellhop delivering hay and water to their hotel room. Sketch tells him to slip it under the door. Joe slips a piece of paper in that says "No tip, no delivery." Sketch grouses "These bellhops. All they think about is money!"
  • Karloff Kopy: Pruneface speaks with an impression of Boris Karloff, albeit in a gruffer cadence.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: In the Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo crossover "Dick Tracy And The Mob," it is learned that a nest of villains are trying to bring a noted felon, Squinty Eyes, into the United States. Tracy notes the similarities between Squinty Eyes (whom authorities capture upon his arrival) and Mr. Magoo, so Tracy enlists Magoo to take Squinty Eyes' place among the mob.
  • Iris Out: In the Joe Jitsu/Go-Go Gomez team-up episode "Tacos Tangle" after Joe signs off ("Sayonara!") and the iris starts to close, Go-Go stops the iris to get in his sign-off as well.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: "Mardi Gras Grab."
  • Lie Detector: Hemlock Homes uses one in the episode of the same name. He's grilling Stooge Viller and Mumbles on the theft of a priceless rocking chair.
  • Malaproper: Sprinkled throughout. Joe Jitsu says "Parting are such sweet and sour" in "The Casbah Express."
  • Never Say "Die": Subverted in the crossover with Mr. Magoo, where Pruneface tells the mob that Squinty Eyes was being brought to America for one purpose: to kill Dick Tracy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Racer Chaser," Joe Jitsu is in rush hour traffic on a highway when Tracy assigns him to hunt down Stooge Viller and Mumbles, who has passed him the opposite way in the race car they have stolen. Joe signals left to make a U-turn ("Sometimes is most imperative...officer of law have to break same"), causing all the cars behind him to crash into a humongous pile. Joe tips his hat and humbly apologizes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Heap O'Calory was a caricature of actor Andy Devine. Hemlock Holmes' voice was a cheap imitation of Cary Grant.
    • Holmes' voice is virtually lampshaded in the debut episode "Red Hot Riding Hoods," which has him answering a phone call from someone that B.B. Eyes (fooling Holmes with a booby-trapped phone booth) says is named Judy. Holmes replies vibrantly, "Judy, Judy, Judy!"
    • Among the villains, Flattop sounded like Peter Lorre, Pruneface like Boris Karloff, B.B.Eyes like Edward G. Robinson, and The Brow like James Cagney.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Toyed with in "Funny Money." Stooge Viller and Mumbles have stolen a briefcase full of theater receipts. During a briefcase mix-up, Viller finds the briefcase he picked up full of somebody's dirty laundry. Mumbles thinks Viller is pocketing the stolen money so he pulls a gun on him.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Dick Tracy is drawn semi-realistically, whereas everyone else, animal or human, is cartoony.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In one episode, Pruneface and Itchy feed an entire ship of sailors to their pet shark (off-screen), and in another Stooge Viller mentions being sick for two weeks the last time Mumbles dealt with a police officer.
  • Officer O'Hara: Heap O'Calorie.
  • Once per Episode: "HOLD EVERYTHING!!" <<<<<screeeeeeeech>>>>> "... calling Dick Tracy, calling Dick Tracy..."
    • Also: "Okay, chief...I'll get on it right away. (into wrist radio) Dick Tracy calling (name of detective)..."
    • In just about every episode with Hemlock Holmes, the villains shoot a hole and deflate Hemlock's police hat.
    Hemlock: Hey! You can't pop a copper's topper!
    • Also, the Retouchables would drive off to their assignment, leaving Holmes to run behind them. He would then grab the trunk of the car and beg them to stop, only to be catapulted onto the hood when they obliged.
    • In Heap O'Calory's episodes, Heap would always try to filch a piece of fruit from a store's outside stand.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: From "The Retouchables," after Hemlock Holmes, who busted a gut rescuing them from Stooge Viller and Mumbles, finds them waiting in the police car:
    Hemlock: (sarcastically) Gee, you think it was worth it?
    Tracy: (dryly) I wonder, Hemlock. I wonder. (grins to the camera)
    • A lot of the Mole's lines consist of this. From "The Flower Plot" for example, after the Yokohama Lily chomps the Mole's rear end:
    Mole: Make it let go, Paree! Make it let go!
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mel Blanc is the British-toned voice of the curator of Madame Torso's wax museum in "Jewel Fool," and it is really, really bad.
    • Hemlock Holmes' British dialect could also qualify.
  • Or My Name Isn't...: Stooge Viller affects this in the first episode he and Mumbles appear, "Two Heels On Wheels," when they see Hemlock Homes and the Retouchables on their tails:
    Stooge: That looks like a copper chopper or my name isn't Stooge Viller!
    • From the debut episode "Red Hot Riding Hoods":
    B.B. Eyes: We're being tailed or my name isn't B.B. Eyes.
  • Overly Long Name: Go-Go Gomez is fond of reminding the viewer that his full name is "Manuel Tijuana Guadalajara Tampico Gomez ... Junior. — I theenk."
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "The Copy Cat Caper," Sketch Paree and the Mole use a "lifelike" mask of Dick Tracy to rob banks, but the mask only covers the front of the wearer's face and is completely static. Go-Go Gomez plays a few tricks of his own with similar cheap masks of Sketch and the Mole.
  • Parrot Exposition: Stooge Viller repeats everything Mumbles says, but he's basically translating Mumbles' mumbling.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Joe Jitsu.
  • Punny Name: Joe Jitsu (a play on the name of martial art ju jitsu).
    • Some episode titles fall into this as well, such as "The Venetian Bind," "The Flower Plot," "The Onion Ring," and "The Vile Inn Case."
  • Put on a Bus: While a couple of episodes early on had Hemlock Homes without the Retouchables, the later episodes simply did not feature the Retouchables at all.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: The Brow and Oodles try to execute this on Tracy in "The Kidnap Trap."
  • Rump Roast: Sketch Paree and the Mole suffer this in "The Casbah Express" when while trying to steal the train's gold car Joe Jitsu throws them in the locomotive smoke stack. They emerge running from the furnace with their tails a-blazin'.
  • Secondary Character Title: Dick Tracy is the title character but only seen in a few scenes per episode. The rest of the episode is usually driven by one of his subordinates.
  • Second-Face Smoke: Pruneface does this to Hemlock Holmes in "The Purple Boy."
  • Secret-Keeper: At the conclusion of the crossover with Mr. Magoo, Magoo wants to tell the press how great of an actor he was impersonating hitman Squinty Eyes and the harrowing experience he went through, but Tracy advises against it. If the mob (who escaped) found out that an actor impersonated their boss, Magoo's life wouldn't be worth a lead nickel. The mob assumed he was dead anyway following them tying him up with a time bomb in the room.
  • Skintone Sclerae: Tracy, the Brow (averted in a few episodes like "Horse Race Chase"), Itchy, Mumbles, the Mole and Pruneface.
  • Soap Punishment: Hemlock Holmes uses a Lie Detector (episode of the same name) on Stooge Viller and Mumbles. When a total whopper is told, the machine uses a bar of soap and washes out the culprit's mouth with it.
  • Talking Animal: The carrier pigeon in "The Pigeon Coup" and Hemlock Holmes the Bulldog.
  • Thriller on the Express: "The Casbah Express." It's a train originating in Paris that is carrying a shipment of gold on which Sketch Paree and the Mole have their eyes. Joe Jitsu is assigned to guard the gold.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Zig-zagged. There were two opening title sequences but only one is on the DVD set, the title that has the front seat perspective of the police car careening towards a crowd of shocked people. The other title sequence had a passenger side shot of Tracy in the car aiming his gun at the camera—he shoots three times and in each shot is a gun barrel view of the criminals in sets. The fourth shot returns to Tracy in the car.
  • Token Non-Human: Hemlock Holmes is the only animal officer Tracy calls for.
  • The Unintelligible: The villain Mumbles, whose impediment was the subject of a running gag in "Court Jester." When the judge asks the court reporter to repeat what Mumbles said, the reporter starts mumbling like Mumbles does. At the court's verdict, the judge involuntarily starts mumbling, while Go-Go Gomez does it after Tracy asked him what the judge said.
    • Nick, the beatnik who gives Heap O'Calory tips on crimes in progress, may count as he communicates with beats from bongo drums that only Heap can decipher.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Figuratively and almost literally in "Funny Money." Hemlock Holmes and the Retouchables chase Stooge Viller and Mumbles, who have a case of stolen theater box office receipts. At the end of the cartoon, Tracy tells Hemlock that the stolen money was actually stage money. Cue Hemlock collapsing in a dead faint.