THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"CHUCK NORRIS KARATE KOMMANDOS: THE COMPLETE SERIES"
It's amazing how yesterday's crap can become tomorrow's treasure. Just look at Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos, a cartoon series from the mid-80s. At the time, this show was, at best, a poor attempt at expanding the actor's popularity to a younger audience. Seen today, in light of Norris's evolution into full-fledged pop culture icon, it's a delightfully hilarious artifact. The complete series (which is to say, five episodes) is now available on DVD from Warner Archive.
Karate Kommandos uses super-cheesy 80's animation to show us the adventures of Norris and his team of cohorts - which includes a strongman, a samurai and a Sumo wrestler (!!!) - as they fight an evil terrorist group led by the Klaw and his sidekick Super Ninja. A live-action Norris appears in his home gym at the beginning and end of each episode, sweaty from a workout, to deliver some kind of inane "positive" platitude to his young viewers. The nuggets of his wisdom include things like Don't give up! and Bullies are bad!
This has to be one of the kookiest, nuttiest cartoons ever to grace the airwaves - and I mean that as a compliment. In the first installment, Norris hatches a plan to break into the Klaw's impenetrable underwater fortress by riding dolphins into it. When he and another character emerge from the ocean and want to scale a massive metal ship, he whips four huge magnets out of thin air to use as climbing aids. Another episode finds him driving a tricked-out car that can hurl saw blades at his foes. The fifth and final chapter has him - are you sitting down for this one? - fighting zombies! Zombies, I say! Chuck Norris versus zombies!
Oh yeah, this is some crazy stuff, and that's exactly what makes it fun. Chuck Norris has, of course, become the subject of a popular humor meme in the last few years. Karate Kommandos, while made more than two decades ago, feels like the perfect extension of that. If you stumbled across it back in 1986, you'd probably change the channel quickly; in 2011, it's hard not to laugh and be oddly entertained.
In case you can't get enough, Warner Archive is also releasing another 80s relic, Mr. T: The Complete First Season. Click these links to order Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos or Mr. T: The Complete First Season.