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Western Animation / Underdog

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Our hero flies past (left to right) Riff Raff, Simon Barsinister, Sweet Polly Purebred, and Cad Lackey.

"There's no need to fear — Underdog is here!"

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 , 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 called Underdog was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2007.

Underdog also inspired a well-remembered, well-loved Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 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", which was created as part of a bunch of 90s acts redoing old cartoon themes. 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)


There's no need to fear, Tv Tropes is 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.
  • Beach Episode: Never in the series, but a comic by Underdog's creator Joe Harris (never intended for release to the public, until he released it himself) had Underdog and Polly going to the beach and playing super-volleyball with a horde of robotic aliens in a story called "The Nug of Nog." See it here.
  • Becoming Part of the Image: This happened several times.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Simon Bar Sinister
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Simon's "Phoony Booths" from the episode of the same name attack a siren like device to the head of anyone who goes inside one, making them his brainwashed minion. Shoeshine Boy mistakenly heads inside one to change into Underdog, turning Underdog into another of Simon's slaves. It's only after he tries to make Underdog hurt Sweet Polly that Underdog fights off the control and breaks free through Heroic Willpower.
  • Buffoonish Tomcat: Klondike Kat that is the bumbling, clumsy, and lucky Comedic Hero.
  • Captain Crash: Underdog. One episode where he has to drive an armored car shows he drives about as well as he flies.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Riff Raff loves being Public Enemy Number One, and once devoted an entire plan simply to recover that title.
  • Cartoonish Supervillainy: Simon Bar Sinister
  • Cats Are Mean: Evil Overlord Overcat was not just mean he could match Underdog as far as personal might was concerned.
  • Catchphrase: Underdog is full of them:
    • "When (there's some kind of trouble), I am not slow./ It's hip, hip, hip, and away I go!"
    • "There's no need to fear./ Underdog is here!"
    • "Where, Oh Where Has My Underdog Gone?"
    • "The secret compartment of my ring I fill/ with an Underdog super energy pill."
    • Simon Bar Sinister would frequently preface an imperative with "Simon says..."
    • Go Go Gophers' Running Board (to Ruffled Feather): "Oopie doopie! You-um genius!"
    • Klondike Kat had two: "Klondike Kat always gets his mouse," and "OH, I'LL MAKE MINCEMEAT OUTTA THAT MOUSE!"
      • Major Minor, Klondike's superior, has "...And sometimes gets his Major!" in response to the first catchphrase whenever Klondike's schemes to catch Savoir Faire end up throttling him as well.
      • Not to mention said mouse constantly reminding us that "Savoir Faire is everywhere!"
  • Character Overlap: Officer Flim Flanigan, a recurring character in The Hunter cartoons, appears in "A New Villain" and "Batty Man."
  • Chaste Hero: He seems to be rather eager to escape Polly's advances.
  • Cliffhanger: Most episodes were structured as four-part serials, with cliffhangers at the end of the first three.
  • Combat Tentacles: The Guard from "The Bubbleheads."
  • 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!" and proving that Good Is Not Dumb.)
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sweet Polly Purebred, in practically every episode. Subverted, however, 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.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Polly doesn't always just wait to be rescued, even though it's usually necessary.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Simon Bar-Sinister, minus the typical evil mustache.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Shoeshine Boy is a shoeshine boy.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Simon is shorter than most characters, including his henchman Cad, and is a mad scientist.
  • Disney Death: Underdog himself several times, e.g., in "A New Villain" and "The Silver Thieves".
  • Distress Call: Polly's cry for help is in tune to Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?. It always works.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Would get him into some serious trouble if it weren't for his Hero Insurance.
  • The Don: Riff Raff is a parody of the trope.
  • 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 Cliffhanger, 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) and does not sound as heroic when speaking as Underdog (he still sounds more like he's Shoeshine Boy but talking in rhyme.) The rest of the series portrays Underdog as much more competent.
    • Simon Bar Sinister's first appearance, like the first episode, is also a one-off with no cliffhanger. Simon notably does not have Cad with him, making it the only time Simon causes trouble without his henchman.
    • Early on, he didn't need — or even have! — the "super energy pills" for his strength. When they were first introduced, they were for a short-duration burst of extra power to fight things that his normal awesome level of strength couldn't handle. In later episodes, they became his entire power source and he lost all of his powers if he didn't take them regularly.
  • Election Day Episode: Simon Bar Sinister disperses treated feathers across the entire United States, keeping every American rolling on the ground laughing on Election Day. Only Simon and his henchman, Cad Lackey, are coherent enough to cast votes, electing Simon as United States Dictator by a total of two votes (the issue of the Electoral College isn't raised).
  • Electricity Knocks You Out: Underdog tries to thwart Electric Eel during a robbery. However the Eel lures Underdog into an electric field, which saps his strength and leaves him in a heap, though conscious. Underdog weakly begs not to be thrown into a lake, so the Eel does exactly that. This was some Briar Patching by Underdog, as the electric charge in his body gets dissipated by the water, restoring him to health.
  • Every Episode Ending:
    Man 1: Look, up in the sky! It's a bird!
    Man 2: It's a plane!
    Man 1: A frog?
    Underdog: Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog,/ It's just little old me— (crash) Underdog.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In his civilian disguise, Underdog is called Shoeshine Boy because he, er, shines shoes.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: When characters overcame their Easy Amnesia from the Forget-Me-Net, they would spin in the air.
  • 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.
  • Evil Twin: Tap-Tap the Chisler, a criminal who looks exactly like Underdog. Upon discovering the similarity, Riff Raff dresses him up like Underdog and has him go on a crime spree to frame the real Underdog, who is currently incapacitated under some rubble. When the real Underdog breaks out, he's now hated by everyone thanks to Riff Raff and Tap-Tap's plan. Underdog eventually proves his innocence, but Tap-Tap eventually breaks out of prison in a later episode and attempts to blow both himself and Sweet Polly up in revenge against Underdog.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the end of the "Just in Case" arc, when Riff Raff and his gang are robbing a passenger cruise and loading them in his invisible ghost ship.

    Ship Captain: You'll never get away with this, Riff!
    Riff Raff: How can we lose? You can't find us because you can't see us! Just look out there. We're loading supplies on that ship. What can you see? Not a thing! Nothing but Underdog, a paint brush, and a ship and - UNDERDOG!? A PAINT BRUSH!? HE'S BACK, AND HE'S PAINTING OUR SHIP!
  • Fake Defector: Underdog pretends to join Riff Raff and Tap-Tap the Chisler in "From Hopeless to Helpless" to discover where they've hidden the Hope Diamond.
  • Falling into Jail: One of the bridging sequences shows the villain Riff Raff shaking down a citizen for money. Literally, Riff holds the man by his ankles and shakes out money. The Hero, Underdog, arrives on scene to deliver a flying jab to Riff's midsection, which makes Riff drop his victim. Underdog then delivers a fearsome left hook that sends Riff through a brick wall and into the city jail. It even says "Jail" on the wall.
  • Flying Brick: Although Underdog is occasionally described as having a "computer-like brain" and sometimes devises clever solutions to problems, he's mostly a straightforward fighter type.
  • Frame-Up: Underdog is framed by Riff Raff in two separate serials, "From Hopeless to Helpless" and "The Gold Bricks."
  • 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.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Polly. Lois Lane would be proud.
  • Grand Finale: "The Vacuum Gun". Simon brings several old villains, including Riff Raff, 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.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Underdog speaks entirely in rhymed couplets, albeit not always with much concern for meter.
  • Haunted House: In "The Gold Bricks." The ghosts were really all just special effects set up by Riff Raff.
  • Helpless with Laughter: One Evil Plan of Simon's involves spreading small feathers over the entire United States, leaving the American population unable to cast a vote due to laughing too much. Only Simon and his henchman, Cad Lackey, were able to cast votes, electing Simon Dictator of The United States.
  • Heroic Dog: Super heroic dog.
  • 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.
  • The Hero's Birthday: Sweet Polly repeatedly mentions this in "Pain Strikes Underdog".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Often Simon will be defeated by ending up on the receiving end of his own inventions, including in "The Big Shrink," "The Forget-Me-Net," "The Tickle Feather Machine," and "Simon Says Be My Valentine."
  • Human Popsicle: Underdog (and several other town citizens) get this treatment in "Go Snow."
  • Instrument of Murder: Simon Bar Sinister built a weather machine modeled closely after a pipe organ. Each key on its keyboard could loose some kind of weather phenomenon, including typhoons and earthquakes. However, early tests of the device tended to wreck Simon's laboratory first, so he and Cad Lackey hijacked a moon rocket to install the device on Earth's airless satellite.
  • Ironic Name: An underdog is an archetypal character who is expected to lose. Underdog is a superhero and thus never loses.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Witch of Pickyoon evaporates when Underdog destroys her magic broom. She is the only villain to actually die in the entire series.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Underdog is capable of moving so fast that he becomes invisible, and has used this trick to defeat opponents more powerful than himself.
    Underdog: He's too big to be as fast as me/ And he can't fight what he can't see!"
  • Limited Animation: Since the animation production was done by the Mexican-based Gamma Productions (who also animated Rocky and Bullwinkle for Jay Ward Productions), this trope naturally comes into play.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!
  • Loved I Not Honor More: In the episode "The Witch of Pickyune", Underdog meets a witch who will only wake his love interest from an eternal sleep if he helps her Take Over the World. Proving himself to be smarter than Anakin Skywalker, he flat out refuses (before accidentally saving the girl anyway with a True Love's Kiss).
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Underdog's phrase: "When [there's some kind of trouble], I am not slow./ It's hip, hip, hip, and away I go!"
  • Made of Explodium: The telephone booths that Shoeshine used to become Underdog.
  • Mad Scientist: Simon Bar Sinister, who would create a new machine to take over the world, but was always stopped by Underdog.
  • Mining for Cookies: The home planet of the villain Overcat possesses "milk wells" which are similar to oil wells. One episode is kicked off when the milk wells begin to run dry and he first steals Earth's supply of milking cows and then Sweet Polly Purebred to act as milk maid.
  • Monster of the Week: Underdog often fights one of these in episodes where the villain isn't Simon Bar Sinister or Riff Raff.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed
  • 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!
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Flim Flanigan.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: If Underdog ever said something without rhyming, you know the business is very serious.
    Underdog: What?!
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Batty Man.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Aside from the various villains, Underdog himself. This is Lampshaded in the movie.
  • Pepper Sneeze: In "The Tickle Feather Machine- part 2", the first machine Simon tests on Cad is a gun that shoots pepper, and thus makes him sneeze nonstop.
  • Primary-Color Champion: He has a red outfit, a blue cape, and a white chest insignia.
  • 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.
  • Recap Episode: The first half of the first part of "The Tickle Feather Machine" is spent recalling Simon Bar Sinister's past capers, including the Shrinking Water, the Weather Machine, the Snow Gun and the Forget-Me-Net, before going to the present time where Simon decides to run for dictator in order to Take Over the World.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: This once became Underdog's Achilles' Heel, when Simon Barsinister undertook to commit crimes based upon the word "orange".
  • 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.
  • Say My Name: The antidote to the Forget-Me-Net.
  • See the Invisible: Underdog was able to overcome Riff Raff's invisible ghost ship by painting it.
  • Sequel Episode: "Tricky Tap by Tap-Tap" serves as a sequel to "From Hopeless to Helpless." But since the former ended up airing first, it unintentionally inverted things and turned "From Hopeless to Helpless" into a Prequel Episode.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: Underdog's secret identity.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: At least, it does if you're an alien cloud, whose people are out to steal all the Earth's silver.
  • Stealth Insult: At the time of the show, a Bar Sinister was thought to mean illegitimacy in heraldry. In other words, Simon Bar Sinister was "Simon the Bastard."
  • Super Serum: Underdog's "Super Energy Pill" or "Energy Vitamin Pill" — sometimes removed from syndicated broadcasts.
  • Take Over the World: Simon Bar Sinister's goal, most of the time.
  • Taken for Granite: Underdog/Shoeshine, Polly, and several others in "The Marbleheads."


Video Example(s):


Klondike Kat's Buffoonery

Klondike Kat is an bumbling comedic-hero in the Underdog shorts, these are clips from the "Honor At Steak" episode that showcases Klondike's buffoonery while being the heroic version of this trope.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BuffoonishTomcat

Media sources: