Despite Hanna-Barbera Productions having a lot of bigger cartoon names in its stable (The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, The Jetsons, Wacky Races and Scooby Doo to name just a few) Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels was by far my favourite. Mostly because I liked repeatedly making my parents jump by standing behind them unnoticed and then screeching ‘Captain CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAAAAN!’ but also because it was just a plainly daft show.
The eponymous crime-fighting hero of the series was exactly what his name would suggest: a caveman, although you wouldn’t find anyone who looked like him in anthropology books. He was short, covered in hair from his scalp to his lower legs; a bit like Cousin IT from The Addams Family, although instead of a funky hat he chose to adorn his hirsute look with a fetching animal skin cape (this was orange with large black spots so I’m not entirely sure which animal it was supposed to be from). One other difference from Cousin IT was that Captain Caveman did actually have a vaguely visible face; through his mane you could see his eyes, a long pink nose and a mouth large enough for either hollering his own name loudly or mumbling accepted caveman speak (‘Me hungry. Me find food’) alongside the occasional utterance of ‘unga bunga’ (nope, nobody was meant to know what that meant).
Voiced by the supremely talented Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat, Foghorn Leghorn and countless others) Captain Caveman was actually quite cute, if the hairy look is one you go for. He was also very similar to both components of another Hanna-Barbera creation: Wacky Races’ the Slag Brothers (that obviously wasn’t as offensive in the 1960s as it now sounds).
Again I’m not sure if this can be anthropologically backed up, but if Captain Caveman was based on fact then it would appear that prehistoric man’s body was adaptive enough to be able to eat anything, not just raw meat and plant life. And when I say anything, I mean anything. Cavey (as he was known to his Teen Angels, more of whom in a minute) would munch on non-food objects such as televisions, lights and bicycles, more often than not gulping them down in one bite. Occasionally he had to be stopped from devouring clues that could be useful in solving their current mystery.
As a more useful talent, Captain C was also able to pull out all manner of objects from deep within his body hair, including things bigger than he was, such as dinosaurs. Kind of like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, only Captain Caveman was his own bag.
He carried with him a big wooden club, which came in handy for not only hitting things with, but as a multi-crime-fighting tool and a means of transportation. The end of the club would pop open, and out would come either a useful gadget or a set of propellers, enabling the hairy one to fly up and away. His companion and mechanic, Cave Bird, lived inside the club and was in charge of gizmo maintenance. Cavey did have the occasional problem with his club’s power failure, which sometimes he would blame on an ‘energy shortage’ (a sly allude to America’s gas rationing in the 1970s) and his adventure would invariably end with him crashing to the ground. However, a hearty shout of ‘Captain CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAAAAN’ would normally restore his oomph levels.
Cavey owed his modern day existence to The Teen Angels, a group of sassy girls who had found and freed him from his long-term imprisonment in a block of ice. Once defrosted, the walking hairball decided that he would hang around, and use his big club to impress them (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). He lived in a cave, which perched on top of The Teenmobile, a large van equivalent of the Magical Mystery Machine that they travelled around the country in, solving crimes. The van was not the only similarity to Scooby Doo’s show; The Teen Angels’ nemeses also wore crap disguises whilst plotting and scheming.
The Teen Angels were made up of standard cartoon women – big hair, squeaky voices and exaggerated hour-glass figures, although Dee Dee and Taffy (yes, Taffy) were able to think for themselves and were pretty competent at unravelling mysteries. Brenda, on the other hand, spent most of her time being terrified of the ‘monsters’ that the team came across, which made you wonder why she insisted on remaining a Teen Angel when she’d probably have been far happier getting a job as a librarian or something.
Although it was never explicitly said, Dee Dee Skyes was obviously the coolest Teen Angel: her intelligence gave her the edge at finding the clues that cracked their cases, and she also had a cool afro going on. Taffy Dare was pretty clever too, but a lot of her success in catching bad guys came from her ability to bat her eyelids at Captain Caveman whilst calling him Cavey Wavey in order to get him to act as bait. Cavey quite fancied her you see (which may have had something to do with her tumbling blond hair and very short dresses) so was prepared to put himself in jeopardy on her behalf. Taffy had an annoying habit (as well as an annoying name) of screeching ‘Zowie!’ whenever she’d come up with ‘Another Daffy Taffy Plan’. As for Brenda, there wasn’t much more to her than we’ve already noted; she was terrified of everything and wore hot pink flares.
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels started life as inserts on ABC’s Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics and the follow-up, Scooby’s All-Stars, with the first season appearing in 1977 and the second in 1979. Then the intrepid foursome (well, three of them were intrepid, Brenda was just wet) were handed their own stand-alone show for the third season in 1980. 40 episodes were produced in all, with typical Hanna-Barbera titles such as ‘The Kooky Case of the Cryptic Keys’, ‘The Creepy Claw Caper’ and ‘Cavey and the Baffling Buffalo Man.’ Once he and the Teen Angels had gone their separate ways Cavey started to expand his acting resume and appeared in a ‘Superman’ parody role in The Flintstone Comedy Show. This showed the caveman back in his own time, working on prehistoric paper The Daily Granite alongside reporters Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble. Cavey assumed the low-key role of ‘Chester’, the office boy that kept his superhero status a secret from his workmates by cunningly wearing glasses and a tie.
After that Captain Caveman popped up in all manner of cartoon cameos across American television, including a stint on The Flintstone Kids where he appeared with his son. There was never an explanation as to who the mother of his furry offspring was – and coincidentally I’ve never been able to find out what Taffy got up to when The Teen Angels disbanded...