televsion series. The New Adventures of Supergorilla
was shown on CBS in 1978.
The origins of Supergorilla date back to the Banana Splits. During their second season, three episodes of a live action series to act as a companion to their already popular Danger Island series were shown. Also directed by then relatively unknown director Richard Donner (who would later go on to direct the successful string of Mel Gibson - Danny Glover buddy movies in the Lethal Weapon franchise), Supergorilla told the tale of Dr. Martin and his young son Jake who worked on a game preserve in Africa. Accompanied by native tribesman, M'Bulla, they battled poachers and other ne'er-do-wells on the African savannah. Their secret weapon was the great white gorilla Torgo, who possessed incredible strength. Jake could call Torgo by using a mystic flute (doo-doo-dee-doo...doo-doo-dee-doo) given to him by an old witch doctor in the first episode. Jake nicknamed Torgo "Supergorilla" thereby the source of the series name. Supergorilla was soon pulled from the Banana Splits line up,because of its poor numbers and Hanna-Barbera's contention that kids would get confused by the addition of a second gorilla besides Splits member Bingo.
The rights to Supergorilla were sold to Filmation in the mid-70's in a package deal with Danger Island, which Filmation desired to make into a live action series to follow up its popular Isis and Captain Marvel series. The desire to include a heroic figure into Danger Island were in part the catalyst for the creation of Tiki God. As Tiki God began to wind down, Filmation began development of an updated version of Supergorilla.
The New Adventures of Supergorilla premeried in 1978, but held little similarity to the original series, though it broke through some barriers in its short air time. First, the lead character was a black child actor named Reggie Martin, who played Carl. Carl and his uncle Willy (Scatman Crothers) worked with Garibaldi's Traveling Circus as part of the circus's animal show. In the first episode, Carl and Betsy Garibaldi (Carly Anne Jones), the daughter of the owner of the circus, discover that the white gorilla Torgo, who was part of their show, can talk! Torgo tells them that he is from a rare area in Africa where apes can talk, but that they must keep it a secret. Torgo gives Carl a whistle that he can blow if he ever needs help which, of course, Carl needs every week.The main villain during the series is Dr. Chalmers who suspects that Torgo can talk and wants to take and study him.
The series involves the circus coming to a new town and Carl getting involved with the local teens who are involved with issues like running away, drag racing, or in one creepy episode the dangers of harvesting combines. Carl would often get into a bad scrape and Torgo, who protected his identity with a black, Robin the Boy Wonder mask and calling himslef Supergorilla, would save him, by using his prodigous strength to stop the runaway car, beat up the kidnappers, or hold off the combine.
The New Adventures of Supergorilla was only on for a short run, despite its positive ratings. A number of factors have been given for its eventual cancellation. Creative differences are often cited as the reason for the cancellation, though many feel on screen friendship between a black male and white female was not something that parents were comfortable with during the 70's.