This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the short-lived TV series “Hammerman.” Airing on ABC during the 1991-92 TV season, the show was produced by DIC, and designed to cash in on the then-popularity of hip-hop star M.C. Hammer, similar to the Beatles and Jackson Five cartoons of the 60s/70s respectively.
The show’s premise was about a youth center worker named Stanley Burrell (MC Hammer’s real name), who inherited a pair of magical, talking shoes that, when worn, turned him into the singing, dancing superhero “Hammerman.” Stanley had inherited the shoes from “Gramps,” an elderly man who was the now-retired superhero “Soulman.” Hammerman’s adventures saw him engaged in fighting various threats to his hometown, such as the short-in-height French-accented rapping villain “Rapoleon.” The series had a “Fat Albert”-like pro-social theme, with the end of each episode featuring a live-action MC Hammer discussing the story’s lesson.
One episode I recall seeing (no episode title, sorry; info on the show’s hard to come by online) had Hammerman time-travel into the future…which happened to be the 2010s. Since the episode was about a kid wanting to drop out of high school, we saw his future self was ill-equipped to find work in his “Jetsons”-like future. Another episode saw Gramps briefly come out of retirement. Gramps/Soulman’s character and image was based on that of the late R&B legend James Brown.
The show ended up being poorly received, between the moralistic tone, being based on a music star whose fame was already starting to wane, and the extremely poor animation. It also didn’t help that it had stiff competition:
- NBC: “Wish Kid“. Another show about a celebrity of the era, Macaulay Culkin (of the “Home Alone” movies fame) voiced a kid whose baseball glove could grant him a wish once a week.
- Fox: “Little Shop.” A cartoon loosely based on the 1980s “Little Shop of Horrors” movie.
- CBS: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The still-highly-popular cartoon, and the opposing show most likely for “Hammerman”‘s quick demise.
By the spring, “Hammerman” was moved to the end of the Saturday morning schedule, where it probably got frequently pre-empted by ABC or local stations’ sports broadcasts, and/or saw viewers flip over to “Soul Train” (at least in my town). After this season, “Hammerman” was axed, and that was that. To date, it’s had a few VHS releases, but so far, no DVD releases. Even the equally short-lived “Wish Kid” got that.
Finally, here’s the opening theme.