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Lassie's Rescue Rangers clip


Lassie's Rescue Rangers (1973)

In 1972, ABC began a cartoon series called The Saturday Superstar Movie, a series of one-hour cartoon films. While many of them were "cartoony-type" shows, also featured were animated versions of live-action series and characters—Don Adams as a bumbling detective very like Maxwell Smart and cartoon versions of The Addams Family, Lost in Space, and Lassie. The last, entitled Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain, served as a pilot of sorts for 1973's animated series, Lassie's Rescue Rangers.

Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain was a not-half-bad adventure story about a supposed treasure stored in a sacred Native American landmark, and of the unscrupulous means some people were using to swindle it away from the occupants of Thunder Mountain. It introduced Lassie's family, the Turner family, and the series regular, Gene Fox, the family's Native American friend. The story fit a lot of the previous Lassie themes: ecology, respect for other cultures, and, of course, Lassie aiding the family against enemies.

When Lassie's Rescue Rangers appeared in the fall Saturday morning lineup, the Turner family—father Ben; mother Laura, a doctor (no, you're not mistaken—"Turner" is the name of the family in 1994's Lassie, and mom is "Laura Turner"); teenagers Jackie and Susan; and the youngest child, Little Ben, who is blind—now own a rescue organization, complete with a helicopter and a motley crew of wild animals who help Lassie save the forest, including Old Toothless, an elderly mountain lion; and Robbie, a raccoon. Gene Fox, the Turner's Native American friend, was also aboard a continuing character.

In keeping with the "relevant" theme of the early seventies, the scripts emphasized ecology, which wasn't bad except the theme was pretty much primary to the stories. Filmation Association, which also did the excellent Star Trek animated series the same year, did a much more typically kids' version of this cartoon, with cartoon animal humor being provided by Lassie's wild animal "colleagues." Some of the episodes were patently absurd, especially one in which the story opens with Ben Turner receiving rescue mission instructions on a tape recorder that self-destructs, alà Mission: Impossible; later in the episode Lassie and the rescue animals are parachuted into some kind of quasi-Latin American dictatorship to get a man out of jail!

More information can be found on the Lassie's Rescue Rangers episode guide page.

N.B. Rudd Weatherwax apparently hated Lassie's Rescue Rangers and once commented, "That's not Lassie, that's trash."

Lassie's Rescue Rangers Episode Guide

Lassie pointer
New Lassie clip

The New Lassie (1989)

The New Lassie, a production of Palladium Entertainment, was syndicated to independent television stations in the fall of 1989. It was not a truly terrible series, but despite a good cast it lacked the traditional Lassie "spark" that made the Jeff, Timmy, and early Corey Stuart episodes so compelling. Many of the stories were done with a tongue-in-cheek or whimsical attitude as if the producers could simply not conceive of being serious about a Lassie series set in the 1980s, and when some serious subjects were addressed, such as autism, teenage drinking, physical handicaps, pollution, laboratory animal testing, alcoholism, etc., it was as if the scripts still held the subjects at arms' length or sidestepped them entirely.

In this series, Lassie's family were the McCulloughs: father Chris, an architect and draftsman; mother Dee, a job counselor; and the two children, young teen Megan and ten-year-old Will. They lived in the small town of Glen Ridge in California and episodes usually involved Will and Lassie's adventures, although Megan was added to the mix often. Megan was a responsible young woman given to occasional bouts of panicked fluster; her dream for the future was to become a professional photographer and episodes often involved Megan and her camera. Will's interests, besides his love of Lassie, were sports: he was actively involved in baseball, soccer, and BMX bike racing. The kids often sniped at each other, but things usually smoothed out by the end of the episode.

Chris' adopted brother Steve was a semi-regular character on the series. He was a journalist with a strong sense of fun and often some recklessness was involved in his pastimes. A secret is revealed about Uncle Steve in one of the first episodes of the opening season.

The series was also notable for employing former child stars in guest roles, following the casting of Jon Provost as Uncle Steve. Margaret O'Brien, Roddy McDowall, Patty McCormack, Don Most, Lance Kerwin, and Tom Rettig all appeared as guests on the show.

Tougher restrictions on the content of children's programming seriously curtailed the type of adventures Lassie and Will could get into. Finding escaped convicts in the woods and Lassie battling bad guys was pretty much a thing of the past. While no one wanted Lassie to "make like Rambo," the supposedly "serious" situations in some of the episodes were just so innocuous that you couldn't believe anyone was worrying about them.

Additionally, despite the care given to present proper values, the show sometimes left children with the wrong impression about important issues. For instance, the old TV series had been very serious when it came to firearms. Gramps, Paul, Ruth, and Corey had all used a gun at one time or the other, usually to defend themselves or someone else from predators. People who misued guns—careless hunters, kids who didn't know what they were doing—were usually portrayed in a bad light and shown to be either evil or stupid and learned their lesson at the end of the episode by being arrested or punished in some other way.

In the first episode of The New Lassie, a man hunting deer out of season unknowingly shoots the kids' Uncle Steve, and Lassie rushes him, knocking his rifle from his hand and tearing his jacket. The hunter then accuses her of biting and has animal control come to take her away. Will helps Lassie escape, and, having tracked them down, the officer pulls out a rifle and aims it at the dog, although Will is standing in front of her! Now, although authority figures have been known to do unlawful things, it's the exception rather than the rule. It's definitely not a good idea to show children that persons such as animal control officers and policemen are cruel and careless with firearms. In addition, we are told the hunter will eventually get his comeuppance, but the situation about the animal control officer was never resolved! His apology is inadequate; he should have never pointed a gun at a person, even if that person was protecting a supposedly vicious dog.

Another disconcerting story involved Chris' reluctance to take a job designing a bar for one of Will's friend's fathers, despite the fact he was out of work and the family needed money. Although it is emphasized strongly in other episodes that this family is always honest with each other, it took Lassie herding them into a room and forcing them to stay there to have Dee finally reveal that Chris did not want to do the job since Dee's father had been an alcoholic and he respected her feelings about excessive drinking. This seemed very at odds with the family philosophy of openness.

Other times the stories took really bizarre turns. It reached its most bizarre in a first season episode called "Roots," featuring Uncle Steve. With nostalgia in mind, the producers had cast Jon Provost in this semi-regular role, and in this episode they examined Lassie's background—the McCulloughs had gotten her when, as a puppy, Steve had pulled her from a burning car.

In this episode, a woman named Mrs. Chadwick suddenly appeared, claiming Lassie was her dog; apparently it was her car that had been on fire, and she had assumed the collie puppy with her had run away or been killed. Will, of course, was heartbroken, and the family offered to buy Lassie, but Mrs. Chadwick refused to take the money, instead showing up at the house to take Lassie away. The first person she sees is Uncle Steve and she exclaims, "Timmy!".

The woman playing Mrs. Chadwick, of course, was June Lockhart, and as the story progressed, we found out that when the Martins had moved to Australia, they hadn't been able to take Timmy with them because they hadn't ever really adopted him (after seven years!!!!). While the Martins made the decision to give up Lassie, it was absurd that they would have chosen to move to Australia and lose their son, but this episode states that they did exactly that! Of course Timmy resented this abandonment—who wouldn't?—not knowing how his adopted parents had fought to keep him, and when he was adopted by the McCulloughs, he started going by his middle name, Steve. In the meantime, Paul Martin had died (maybe—they actually don't say) and Ruth had married someone named Chadwick (whether this marriage was to an American or an Australian was not revealed). If this wasn't hard enough to swallow, Mrs. Chadwick then claimed she wanted Lassie back because there had always been a Lassie in her family! Never mind that Timmy got Lassie from Jeff! Did the people who created this series even watch the original show?

(N.B. They eventually bought off Mrs. Chadwick by promising her one of Lassie's puppies.)

A later episode brings back Tommy Rettig as now Professor Jeff Miller, a computer specialist, and while the storyline made a lot more sense than "Roots," "Timmy" and "Jeff" greet each other with disappointingly fake dialog. If you ever watch the transitional episodes, Jeff pretty much had adopted Timmy as a little brother, and the reunion should have been much more heartfelt.

Despite the gaffes, there were several interesting stories. One episode, for instance, featured the McCulloughs attending a local Highland Games/gathering of the clans. (Lassie, of course, is right at home in a Scottish gathering.) And Lassie's first co-star, Roddy McDowall, was featured in three stories as author Andrew Leeds.

The best, most imaginative episode of the lot featured Tony Jay (Paracelsus from the Beauty and the Beast series and Lex Luthor's ex-henchman on Lois and Clark). Jay played an elderly handyman named Mr. Shepherd who entranced the entire family, except Megan—until a crisis occurs. This is a lovely episode with moments of suspense and mystery. Would that the entire series had been as emotionally satisfying.

None of these episodes are available on DVD or video in the United States so far as I know. Two British videotapes with three episodes each existed at one time, but are now out of print. They are sometimes available on e-Bay.

Note: the title for this series was originally just Lassie, but syndicators found that stations confused it with the classic series. It was then renamed The New Lassie, and has remained that way.

The cast for The New Lassie:

An episode guide to The New Lassie.

There are various New Lassie episodes on YouTube; just search on The New Lassie. Most of them are overdubbed in Russian.
However, here are two original advertisements for The New Lassie (while it was still called just plain Lassie):
Promo 1
Promo 2

Plus a reminder from the Stones and Lassie to spay/neuter your dog:
New Lassie spay/neuter promo

Lassie pointer
Cinar's Lassie

Lassie (Cinar, 1997)

On March 2, 1997, Lassie returned to the small screen with a series of 52 episodes, aired by the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet cable channel, in conjunction with Cinar Productions and Golden Book Entertainment television. This new Lassie series was filmed, as were many others in the 1990s, in Canada.

The story: Widowed veterinarian Karen Cabot and her young son Timmy have moved back to Karen's old home town of Hudson Falls, Vermont, where Karen bought out the practice of elderly Dr. Donald Stewart, the town's vet. Timmy is uncertain of the move and still smarting from his father's recent death. In short order, we are introduced to Ethan Bennett, an old classmate of Karen's (who is still interested in her romantically) and owner of the local sporting goods store, and a neighbor girl, Wilhemina ("Billie").

In the introductory two episodes, "The Great Escape" and "Lassie Comes Home," a neglected collie living at Hollering Hank's junkyard escapes and is hurt by a passing truck. She's found by young Timmy and brought home to his mother to treat. Posters are put up around town, but when no one claims the dog after ten days, Karen tells Timmy he can keep her, and he names her Lassie.

Which of course is when Hank—a town character in the true sense of the word—comes back to claim her.

The series opened fairly well, with some pleasant characters and a touch of humor to the writing that was sorely missing from the last new series. The Les Baxter Lassie theme was nicely integrated into the new opening music—the score is by Milan Kymlicka—as well. However, the second part of the initial story rather degenerated into silliness, Hank not being a very threatening character. Folks looking for the old Lassie sense of adventure were probably disappointed by most of the episodes.

The use of some of the old series' names, however—presumably as a tribute—was a bit jarring. The updated version of Willy Brewster, Billie, was a definite improvement on Linda Wrather's typically 1960's girl character—one almost wished she was the one who ended up with Lassie rather than Timmy, who's nice but rather predictable. Unfortunately, Billie only appeared in the first three episodes, to be replaced by Timmy's friends Jeff (son of Jay Mack, Ethan's best friend and owner of the town diner) and Natalie. [Note: Jeff and Natalie's names were seen in several credits/synopses as "Geoff" and "Nathalie." However, in credits to the final episodes, Jeff and Natalie are the versions used.]

The first season had a good mix of boy and dog and boy and life problems which worked pretty well. In second season, several script-related and casting problems developed: the "touch of humor" in the pilot seemed to be a harbinger for the attitude of the entire series, especially the second season, which many times isn't about Lassie at all, but about Timmy and his friends. In too many episodes Lassie is simply a bystander, and when she does get to do something, it's usually as moral support. The later episodes of second season seem to involve Hollerin' Hank into almost every other situation; while the character isn't bad comic relief, he's annoying to watch that often. To make matters worse in the final 13 episodes, spunky and bright Natalie, who has "gone off to live in Montreal," has been replaced by a vacuous little girl named Pascale.

The main difficulties of the second season stemmed from Golden Books' contention that "Lassie" is just a character and didn't need to be played by the "line dog," a Lassie descended from the collies used on the television series and trained by Bob Weatherwax. They replaced Lassie by a French-Canadian trained collie in the first thirteen episodes of season two; while this collie did an admirable job, but they didn't even bother looking for a dog that looked like Lassie, with the distinctive white blaze. The final thirteen episodes credit Lassie as being handled by Carol Riggins, with collies supplied by Weatherwax Trained Dogs and Bob Weatherwax listed as a consultant. The collie you see in the final thirteen episodes was a son of the eighth generation Lassie, who was the lead dog in the first season and who was then touring the country with Bob Weatherwax.

The series, before ending with the two parter "Graduation," did manage to clear up the onrunning mystery of Lassie's origin that was established in some of the earliest episodes: she was originally "Sable," the pet of a diplomat's daughter. She escaped from a caretaker while the girl and her father were assigned out of the States. Timmy heroically returns her to her original owner, but Lassie, whom we find out was expecting puppies at the time she left the Cabots, walks all the way home to Hudson Falls to have her litter. The diplomat's daughter, knowing Lassie's heart now lies with Timmy, asks for a puppy instead. (The ending of this episode was ruined a bit by the appearance of the puppies, who when found "newborn" by Hank, are romping, their eyes opened, looking in reality to be about six weeks old.)

We also find out that Doc Stewart's long-discussed book is to be published, and discover that he didn't write his memoirs after all, but a book about Timmy and Lassie's adventures!

Season 1 of the series is now out on DVD, but only in Canada (however, American fans can order it freely since Canada also uses Region 1 DVDs). A children's picture book, The Great Escape, based on the opening story, can be found.



Season One Episodes

"The Great Escape" *
"Lassie Comes Home" *
"Swamp Thing" *
"The Raft"
"Horse Healer"
"Biker Boys"
"Where's Timmy?"
"Lassie is Missing"
"The Big Smoke"
"Open Season"
"The Feud"
"A Day in the Life"
"Cats Out of the Bag"
"On the Case"
"Sweet Science"
"Poster Pup"
"Rush to Judgment"
"Fathers and Sons"
"That Boy-Girl Thing"
"Friends with Mr. Cairo"
"Bone of Contention"
"The Great Emu Hunt"
"Not on the Map"
"Dog Gone It!"
"Collie Confusion"
"The Lassie Files"

      * Episodes with Billie rather than Jeff and Natalie

Season Two Episodes
 
Episodes Without "the real Lassie"
"Dad's Watch"
"Responsibility"
"Wild Goose Chase"
"Tale of the Noisy Ghost"
"Full Circle"
"Chain Letter"
 
 
"Monkeyin' Around"
"Trains & Boats & Planes" (2 pts)
"Manhunt"
"Pet Therapy"
"Amazing Grace"
"Mayor for a Day"
 
Lassie handled by Carol Riggins
"Sam Dupree"
"The Good Neighbor"
"The Boy Who Cried Wolf"
"Feathered Friends"
"Hookie for Hockey"
"Fit to Print"
 
 
"Mad Dog"
"Secrets and Lies"
"New Dog in Town"
"Breakout"
"Bear Necessities"
"Graduation" (2 pts)



The Cast for Cinar's Lassie:

  • Timmy Cabot: Corey Sevier   [Later "Dan" on PAX-TV's Little Men]
  • Dr. Karen Cabot: Susie Almgren
  • Ethan Bennett: Tim Post
  • Dr. Donald Stewart: Walter Massey
  • Billie: Brigid Tierney
  • Jeff MacKenzie: Tod Fennell
  • Jay Mack: Al Vandecruys
  • Natalie Blake: Natalie Vansier
  • Pascale: Maude Gionet
  • "Hollerin'" Hank Cranforth: Chip Chuipa
Lassie pointer
Meiken Lassie

Meiken Lassie (Meiken Rasshii, 1996)

Unrelated to any of the Lassie live action series or Lassie's Rescue Rangers, Meiken Lassie was a 26-part anime series based on Lassie Come-Home and produced by Nippon Animation. The Japanese production company World Masterpiece Theater had already done many other family classics as multi-part serials, including Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Little Women, Little Men, and The Little Princess, and Meiken Lassie was the next to the last of these.

The story, which originally ran from January 14, 1996 through August 18, 1996, followed the adventures of young John (not Joe) who lives in a 1930s working-class coal-mining village, and who finds a sick collie puppy lost in a flock of sheep. He brings the young dog home and nurses her back to health and the two enjoy adventures together and with John's friends. Then the village mine closes and, in exchange for an official investigation into the closing, the owner of the mine takes Lassie back with him to Scotland, but his granddaughter Priscilla, who is also John's friend, cannot bear to see Lassie shut up away from the boy she loves and frees her to find her way home. However, because the series was cancelled after 26 episodes of a projected 52, Lassie's journey only lasted for three episodes.

Translated, the title means "Famous Dog Lassie."


Episode Titles

  1. I'm Not Alone
  2. Disruptive Home Stay
  3. Good-Bye Lassie
  4. Father's Pay Day
  5. 6 Mile Request
  6. Run Through the Storm
  7. Arrest the Muffler Burglar
  8. I Dislike Lassie
  9. Princess from the Sky
  10. First Cake-Baking Session
  11. Priscilla, Last Selfishness
  12. Who Caused the Fire?
  13. Sandy Steals Cows?
  14. Follow the Strange Man!
  15. Return the Innoncence of Ian!
  16. Hurry Up! Help the Hopper Teacher
  17. Ms. Curry's Marriage
  18. Hurly Burly! The Elephant of the Circus Ran Away
  19. Colin's First Love
  20. Mother Fell! It is Serious
  21. I Want to Meet Grandma
  22. John's Decision and Mine!
  23. Do Your Best to Defend John, Lassie!
  24. Uncertain News! Searching for Lassie!
  25. Welcome Home, Lassie
  26. Run Toward the Dream
Lassie pointer
New Adventures of Lassie

The New Adventures of Lassie (Lassie and Friends) (2012)

Ten-year-old Zoe Parker lives a dream life growing up in the wilderness of Grand Mountain National Park, where her father Graham is the head ranger and her mother Sarah, a veterinarian, runs a clinic where she treats and rehabilitates wild animals. Zoe's best human friend is Harvey, whose mother Beth runs the park's visitor center, but her real best friend is her loyal and intelligent collie dog Lassie, who's always there when Zoe and Harvey get into scrapes involving their adventures with wild animals or visitors to the park. Other friends and neighbors include Mrs. Lee, owner of The Happy Camper souvenir/grocery store, the snooty Samantha Humphreys and her parents, and a hunting and fishing guide named Nick.

Lassie's friends include Biff, Mrs. Lee's spoilt pug dog, and the denizens who live in the old barn near the Parker house: Looper, a raccoon who's always raiding garbage cans; Pica, a magpie whose life Lassie once saved; and little Houdini, the hamster with attitude. Lassie can "talk" in human fashion to her animal friends, but does not talk when interacting with the humans.

Surprisingly, except for the scenes with the "Barn Gang," which are usually ridiculous and for comic relief only, the stories are rather straightforward adventure tales with Lassie, Zoe, and Harvey. The Parker adults are not "helicopter" parents by any means, so Zoe lives a life that is closer to what Jeff or Timmy experienced, and those stories are not played for laughs. The series is mainly in release in Europe and India, and if you wish to watch episodes, there are three foreign language ones on YouTube.

"Saving Zuli" (Hungarian)
"Gold Rush" (Hungarian)
"Tornado Watchers" (French or Italian)

For more on the series and characters, the press kit in PDF format.


  

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