On the day before Valentines Day in 2020, Sid and Marty Krofft received a love letter of their own in the form of a star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Funko store. David Arquette, Beverly D’Angelo, three of the Brady Bunch Kids (Christopher Knight, Susan Olsen and Maureen McCormick) and Greg Garcia were on hand at the presentation of the 2,687th star honoring these two brothers who at ages 91 (Sid) and 84 (Marty) are still hard at work with children’s programming. But some fans might be surprised that the duo haven’t always entertained for children.
Long before H. R. Pufnstuf hit the small screen, Sid was a puppeteer who worked in vaudeville and the Ringling Bros. ad Barnum & Bailey Circus. In the 1940’s he created the one-man puppet show knowns as “The Unusual Artistry of Sid Krofft.” By the 1950’s, the brothers were working together and in 1957, they created the adult-themed Les Poupées de Paris puppet show. Although the show featured characters modeled after various celebrities from Judy Garland to Phil Silvers, it also featured a number of topless puppets too! The show was brought to the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962 and later to New York’s World’s Fair in 1964. That same year, the Kroffts appeared with puppets on The Dean Martin Show (with tops on by way) but were let go after eight episodes because Martin reportedly felt upstaged by the marionettes. The fan letters he was receiving at the time requested more screen time with the puppets!
In 1968, Hanna-Barbera Studios, known for hit cartoon series such as The Flintstones and Yogi Bear came knocking on the Krofft’s door asking them to create a set of costumes for a new Saturday morning program called The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Giving the brothers just a rough layout of what each character should look like, Sid and Marty designed Fleegle (a dog), Bingo (a gorilla), Drooper (a lion) and Snorky (an elephant) who would introduce a variety of animated cartoons. That was their whole involvement. It wasn’t their show. However, the heads of development at NBC took notice and asked the Kroffts why they didn’t create their own show. And that started it all.
Talking about the TV shows that the Kroffts created can be polarizing event. It seems that there are just as many adults who have fond memories of these creation as there are those who hated them. Sure, they were silly and often had terrible laugh tracks added. But the Kroffts created weird worlds with wonderful characters that were unlike anything else out there.
But as good as the Kroffts are are creating characters and storylines, the two have a bad reputation for not knowing how to end a story. Jimmy and his magic flute never left Living Island. Mark is probably still stuck in Lidsville. Will and Holly are still searching for a way out of the Land of the Lost. Jerry and Alice never got off of that Lost Saucer and Dr. Shrinker never returned Brad, B.J. or Gordie to their original size.
The bulk of the Kroffts most memorable stuff was created between 1969 and 1980. Many of the shows featured a former Mickey Mouse Club Mousekeeter, but you would never know that because she was always shown in costume. Sharon Baird is known to have played the roles of Stupid Bat, Judy Frog, Shirley Pufnstuf and Lady Boyd for H.R. Pufnstuf, various hats for Lidsville, Big Daddy Ooze for Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Pa, a Paku for Land of the Lost and various characters for the Krofft Superstar Hour.
Another constant character actor for many Krofft shows and was mostly hidden under costumes as well was Billy Barty. His first role was Sparky the Firefly for The Bugaloos and he also played Sigmund the Sea Monster. He later appeared out of costume as Hugo, Dr. Shrinker’s assistant and then later playing Otto, a similar character for the Krofft Superstar Hour.
H. R. Pufunstuf
It was at the San Antionio HemisFair in 1968 where inspiration for the Krofft brothers first TV show came from. In addition to the risqué Les Poupées de Paris puppet show, Sid and Marty also put together a children’s stage show called Kaleidoscope. The latter featured a dragon called Luther and they had hopes of making a Luther Land TV show. NBC didn’t like the name, so the Krofft’s came up with Pufnstuf inspired by the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Sid later added H.R. to the name meaning “royal highness” only backwards.
Premiering on September 6, 1969, the show featured Jimmy (Jack Wild who played Oliver Twist in the movie musical, Oliver!) and his talking flute who boarded a happy-looking boat promising to take them on an adventure. Instead, the boat, which was was owned by Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), was a trap to get them on Living Island where she had hoped to steal the flute. Jimmy is rescued by the mayor of the island, H.R. Pufnstuf (voiced by the show’s writer, Lennie Weinrib) and together they spent the next 16 episodes trying to get the boy back home. He never made it.
The show’s theme song was written by Les Szarvas but is also credited to Paul Simon when he successfully sued the Krofft brothers for mimicking his song, “Feelin’ Groovy,” too closely. The next year, Universal Pictures produced a movie version of the show which also starred Cass Elliott as Witch Hazel and Martha Raye as Boss Witch.
Though the show was a huge success, it was just too expensive for the Kroffts to produce. The show aired on NBC for two years before moving to ABC for another year. However, Pufnstuf the character made appearances in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, C.H.I.P.S. and even The George Lopez Show.
Four teens who resembled different bugs were known as The Bugaloos which began airing on NBC on September 12, 1970. Singer Phil Collins auditioned for the role of IQ, a grasshopper, but that role went to John McIndoe. The other “bugs” were Joy (Caroline Ellis) who resembled a butterfly, Harmony (Wayne Laryea) who was a bumblee and Courage (John Philpott) who played a ladybug. As mentioned, Billy Barty played Sparky the Firefly, but unlike the Bugaloos, Sparky appeared in a full-on costume.
This band of bugs made beautiful music together in Tranquility Forest. When not flying, the bus would take their Bugaloo Buggy, a show car created by George Barris, known for creating the first Batmobile among other TV and movie cars.
The Bugaloo’s music would get played on KOOK radio in Rock City by D.J. Peter Platter. Often their songs played out like a music video within the storyline. But they were not the only ones wanting to get their music played on the air. The villain of the show, Benita Bizarre (Martha Raye) wasn’t much competition for the band. Living in a jukebox with her henchmen of sorts, Woofer and Tweeter, Benita was always jealous of the Bugaloos more melodic music. Every week she would try to either capture them or sabotage them in some way only to have her evil plans backfire on her.
The Krofft’s third children’s show, Lidsville had a storyline that suspiciously similar to a British animated TV series called Hattytown Tales. Both shows featured a town where all of the residents were a bunch of walking, talking hats, but the similarities ended there. The ABC show, which began airing on September 11, 1971, starred teenage Butch Patrick who is better known for playing Eddie in The Munsters.
Like H.R. Pufunstuf, the premise of the show was explained during the show’s opening credits. Mark (Patrick) loved magic shows. While visiting a theme park, Mark went to see Merlo the Magician’s magic show and was so impressed that after the show, he went to the magician’s dressing room and found Merlo’s magic hat. It suddenly grew to monster size and Mark accidentally fell in much like Alice did on her way to Wonderland.
Mark then found himself just past the hair forest and shampoo river in a town called Lidsville. All of the structures and people were shaped like hats. The largest structure was a magic hat where Horatio J. HooDoo (Charles Nelson Reilly) lived. He was basically the king of the land and was constantly taxing those poor hat people. Thinking that Mark was a spy, he was captured by a bad hats gang who took Mark to Horatio. Inside magician’s house, Mark met the Weenie Genie (Billie Hayes) who was a servant to Horatio as long as he had her magic ring. Mark ends up stealing the ring, making Genie his own now and the two ran off back into town where he was befriended by a wide variety of hats.
Mark helped the hat citizens resist against their enemy and in turn, they would try to help him get back home. However, Horatio would always ruin any plan Mark had about leaving.
Although he has admitted many years later that Lidsville was actually a “cute show,” Butch Patrick actually hated his time while working on it. He did have a crush on Caroline Ellis from The Bugaloos and had mistakenly hoped that she might be involved in Lidsville in some way, but she wasn’t. It has also been reported that Charles Nelson Reilly enjoyed playing the villain, but hated that amount of time it took to get his makeup on and felt like he was suffocating while wearing it. Both actors couldn’t wait for the show to end. Hayes however, loved her time playing a “good” character instead of the baddie Witchipoo.
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was unlike the three shows that preceded it since instead of having a human go to some fantastic world, Sigmund involved fantastical creatures coming to the real world. The trouble started when two brothers, Johnny (Johnny Whitaker from Family Affair) and Scott (Scott Kolden from Me and the Chimp) were playing on the beach near Dead Man’s Point (which doesn’t seem like a great idea) and they meet Sigmond Ooze, a non-scary sea monster, sort of like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Sigmund (played by Billy Barty but voiced by Walker Edminston) had been thrown out of his home by his family (Sweet Mama, Big Daddy, Blurp, Slurp and the pet lobster Prince) because he lacked the skills of scaring humans. Having pity on Sigmund, the boys sneak Sigmond into their garage and allow him to live there.
Premiering on NBC on September 8, 1973, the show ran for two seasons also featured Zelda (Mary Wickes) an overbearing housekeeper; Mrs. Eldels (Margaret Hamilton – the witch from The Wizard of Oz!), a neighbor, Sheriff Chuck Bevans (Joe Higgins), Sheldon the Sea Genie (Rip Taylor) and Shelby (Sparky Marcus), Sheldon’s nephew. One episode even featured Jack Wild.
A reboot of the series was created in 2016 to air on Amazon’s streaming service. The show’s storyline was quite similar but with a few new characters. During the show’s seven episodes David Arquette played Captain Barnabus who has devoted his life to capturing sea monsters. The boys were staying with their cousin Robyn and her mother Maxine for the summer. Johnny Whitaker even appeared as a special guest star. The rest of the cast included Solomon Stewart as Johnny, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as Scott, Rebecca Bloom as Robyn, Eileen O’Connell as Aunt Maxine, Mark Povinelli as Sigmund, Drew Massey as the voice of Sigmund, Meegan Godfrey as Blurp, Michael Oosterom as the voice of Blurp, Dan Crespin as Slurp, Victor Yerrid as the voice of Slurp, Lexi Pearl as Mama, and Donna Kimball as the voice of Mama.
Land of the Lost
Sid and Marty joined with Allan Fosko in the creation of Land of the Lost which is perhaps the most successful of all of the Krofft shows. The show’s premise is explained in the show’s opening where Rick Marshall (Spencer Milligan) and his children Will (Wesley Eure) and Holly (Kathy Coleman) are on a camping trip and while rafting, fall down a 1,000-foot waterfall that takes them into an alternate universe that is inhabited by dinosaurs. From there, much like other Krofft shows, they spent their time trying to get back home.
The creators took the Land of the Lost very seriously never wanting to talk down to the kids watching the show. Despite the dinos, most of the family’s drama had to do with the slow-moving Sleestak (lizard-looking men) and Pakuni (primate-looking creatures). The family is often aided by one Pakuni named Cha-Ka. Sid and Marty went as far as hiring a linguistics professor at UCLA to create a full Pakuni language. As for the Sleestak, they were not played by professional actors, but instead, UCLA backetball players were hired for the roles – but only three since only three Sleestak costumes were made for the show. One was worn by Bill Laimbeer who later played for the Detroit Pistons.
The Land of the Lost premiered on NBC on September 7, 1974 and ran for three seasons, but Will and Holly lost their father at the beginning of season 3 when Rick accidentally returns home without them but is replaced by his brother Jack (Ron Harper) who apparently was looking for the family at that exact time. (How convenient was that?)
Reruns of Land of the Lost returned to TV on CBS in 1985 and again on Sci Fi Channel in the 1990s. On September 7, 1991, the Kroffts introduced a new version of the show that aired on ABC for two seasons. The new show boasted of better special effects and was lighter in tone overall. Though the show had similar themes, it was an entirely different series.
This time, it was the Porter family that got lost. Tom (Timothy Bottoms), Kevin (Robert Gavin) and Annie (Jennifer Drugan) were riding their Jeep when it fell through a time portal. Now “lost” the family met a “jungle girl” Christa (Shannon Day)who once living in San Francisco before she got “lost” many years earlier. (Although there was a plan to have that role to actually be an adult Holly Marshall.)
And then of course there was the 2009 Land of the Lost movie that starred Will Ferrell that was so poorly received that it “won” seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations. At a 2017 Comic-Con appearance, Sid and Marty apologized for the disaster calling it “one of the worst films ever made” and they further explained that they had limited involvement with it.
The Lost Saucer and Far Out Space Nuts
In 1975, Sid and Marty created two similar “lost in space” series that starred two different comedy duos for both ABC and CBS. The Lost Saucer and Far Out Space Nuts both premiered on September 6, 1975. The first, which was mildly more successful, starred Ruth Buzzi and Jim Neighbors as the androids Fi ad Fum from the year 2369. In the show’s premiere, the couple land on Earth and invite a young boy, Jerry (Jarrod Johnson) and his babysitter Alice (Alice Playte) to check out their digs in the saucer, but accidentally take off with the kids still inside. Inside the ship they meet the android’s pet Dorse (half dog, half horse).
In each episode, Fi and Fum try to make their way back to Earth to drop off the kids but instead, they continue ending up somewhere else having yet another adventure, hence, the “lost” saucer. Each of the 16 episodes had a social or environmental message sewn into the story.
Some people like to think of Far Out Space Nuts as “Gilligan in Space” because the show featured former Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver who worked alongside Chuck McCann who resembled the Skipper slightly. The effect the Kroffts was going for was a modern take on Laurel and Hardy. The two played Junior (Denver) and Barney (McCann), two dimwitted NASA maintenance workers who actually “launch” a space craft instead of having “lunch.” The pair found themselves in different misadventures for 15 episodes aided by their furry friend Honk who spoke with horn noise out of the top of his head.
The Krofft Supershow
It was the love of serials that drove Sid and Marty to create The Krofft Supershow which debuted on ABC on September 11, 1976. The hour-long show actually featured three 15-minute-long segments from three different continuing stories. Tom Hanks actually auditioned for one of the roles, but he didn’t get it.
The Krofft Supershow was hosted by a made up rock group called Kaptain Kool (Michael Lembeck) and the Kongs (Superchick: Debra Clinger, Turkey: Mickey McMeel, Nashville: Louise DuArt and Flatbush: Bert Sommer) who could actually sing. The “glam rock” band sang songs written by the Osmond brothers, performed short skits and introduced the serials Dr. Shrinker, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl and Wonderbug.
Dr. Shrinker starred Jay Robinson as the main bad guy and Billy Barty played his little evil helper, Hugo. In the first episode, three teenagers Brad (Ted Eccles), B.J. (Susan Lawrence) and Gordie (Jeff MacKay) find themselves standed on a deserted island where they meet Dr. Shrinker who, in no time at all, shrinks the three down to miniature size. The kids spend the rest of the series trying to escape with no luck.
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was similar in tone to the 1966 Adam West Batman TV series. The show featured Lori (Deidre Hall) and Judy (Judy Strangis) who worked as reporters for Newsmaker magazine but also fought crime as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. With the help of smart guy Frank Heflin (Horman Alden) the duo fought against various supervillains in two-part episodes.
Inspired by Herbie the Love Bug, Wonderbug was a seemingly old and rundown dune buggy named Schlepcar but when when teens Barry (David Levy), C.C. (Jack Baker) and Susan (Carol Anne Sefinger) attach a magic horn to the vehicle, he became Wonderbug who could fly which was really handy when fighting criminals, which happened in every episode.
The Krofft Supershow was renewed for a second season but with some changes. First, Kaptain Kool lost one member (Flatbush) and the group was no longer a glam band, but fresh-faced. And their musical performances were actually taped in a studio with actual children in the audience. Wonderbug was the only serialized story to continue on the show and was joined by Magic Mongo and Bigfoot and Wildboy
With a theme similar to I Dream of Jeannie or Aladdin, three teenagers (Donald: Paul Hinckley, Lorraine: Helaine Lembeck and Kristy: Robin Dearden) find an old bottle on the beach and unknowingly unleash a genie named Mongo (Lennie Weinrib) who while trying to help his masters, usually ended up with some misunderstandings and goofy hijinks.
Scary Bigfoot was shown to have a fatherly side in Bigfoot and Wildboy. The show told the tale of Bigfoot (Ray Young) finding the orphaned Wildboy (Joseph Butcher) out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Together, the pair would fight off dangerous criminals. The show also featured Suzie (Monika Ramirez), Ranger Lucas (Ned Romero) and Cindy (Yvonne Regalado). Each episode of Bigfoot and Wildboy was shown in two parts. This segment proved popular enough to be shown as a stand alone 30-minute show in 1979.
Krofft Superstar Hour
On September 9, 1978, the Krofft Supershow got a major reboot by switching to NBC, replacing Kaptain Kool and the Kongs with The Bay City Rollers and became more of a variety show with characters from previous Krofft shows in various skits. The Kroffts and NBC had high hopes for this project, but in the end it just didn’t work.
First of all, the Kroffts thought that getting the Bay City Rollers to star in their show would make it a surefire hit and given the excitement shown from the shots of the live audience, it would appear to be one. However, when the Scottish band wasn’t singing, they weren’t very charismatic and their thick accents made it difficult to understand what they were saying. It is reported that the bad were not very professional during practices.
As before, the band would introduce Magic Mongo and two new mini-series which would make one wonder if the Kroffts had finally ran out of ideas. Horror Hotel was a comedy that starred Witchiepoo running a hotel along with other H.R. Pufunstuf characters Dr. Blinky, Seymour the Spider, Orson the Vulture and Stupid Bat. The show also featured Horatio J. HooDoo from Lidsville but this time he was portrayed by Paul Gale. The second series, The Lost Island had a similar tone to H.R. Pufunstuf and starred the dragon himself along with Sigmund the Sea Monster and Weenie the Genie. The villains of the show were Dr. Deathray (basically Jay Robinson reprising his Dr. Shrinker role) and his henchman Otto (Billy Barty). Oh, and the show featured Sleestak and dinosaur footage from Land of the Lost.
About two months into the show, the Superstar Hour was cut down to 30 minutes and renamed The Bay City Rollers Show. The Horror Hotel and Magic Mongo segments were dropped as well. Unfortunately, the show didn’t fare any better and by January 1979, the show was dropped from NBC’s lineup.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.