When a film franchise starts running out of ideas it’s not uncommon for the solution to be “Let’s set the next one in outer space” but in the case of the original Josie and the Pussycats series from Hanna-Barbera, which only had one 16 episode season, it didn’t quite have enough time for anything to get stale but that didn’t stop the second season being retitled Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, where our favourite all-girl group would find themselves venturing off to new worlds while also fending off a variety of alien menaces.
Saturday morning cartoons were known for producing a variety shows for the kiddies but one thing they rarely provided were pilot episodes or much in the way of continuity, which made airing re-runs easier, and though pilot episodes explaining the premise of shows like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! or The Jetsons where not needed in the case of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space a little set-up certainly couldn’t have hurt. And exactly how did Josie and the gang end up in outer space? The show provides little information for this other than what we see during the two-minute opening title sequence which is that while the group was taking a promotional photo at the launch site of a new spaceship a jealous Alexandra Cabot (Sherry Alberoni) elbowed the cast aside in order to steal the spotlight from Josie (Janet Waldo), which causes the group to fall back into the ship where she then accidentally triggers the launch sequence, sending them all off into deep space.
The premise of this second season was fairly simply with Josie and her friends travelling through space until eventually encountering some alien racer or other and, at some point, the Pussycats would perform a song before continuing their quest to find Earth, with Alexandra continuing to screw up any chances of the group getting home. Basically, Alexandrea figures into the series as if she were a space-going Gilligan as it is always her fault a “rescue” is thwarted. Of course, the premise of a group of people being “lost in space” can’t help but be compared to Irwin Allen’s science fiction series Lost In Space but this animated show has even more similarities than just that basic premise, such as it is, the duties of Professor Smith from the Irwin Allen series is almost split amongst Alexandra, who caused them to be lost in space in the first place, and her twin brother Alexander Cabot III (Casey Kasem), who provides the cowardly comic relief that Jonathan Harris so aptly brought to Lost in Space.
Note: In the Irwin Allen series Lost in Space Penny Robinson had Debbie the Bloop as her alien pet while in this show Melody (Jackie Joseph) has a fluffy alien creature called Bleep (Don Messick), clearly, the writers of this show were not going out of their way to be original.
- No matter how or where the Pussycats are taken into captivity their instruments would somehow magically appear so that they could perform, but when they escape and are forced to leave them behind the instruments will miraculously be back on the ship for the next episode.
- The group is lost in space yet they are seen constantly flying by Mars and Venus, which makes Valerie’s supposed genius-level piloting called into question.
- In the episode “The Sun Haters” an alien race wants to destroy their own sun because it hurts their sensitive eyes, which begs the question “How did this race evolve with such a genetic flow? Were they once subterranean creatures? “ Also, even bubbled-headed Melody points out that without the sun everyone will die, including the aliens.
- Almost every friendly alien race they encounter programs the Pussycats’ ships auto-pilot to take them back home and every time Alexandra manages to screw it up and we are left to wonder “At what point do you just tie Alexandra to her seat so you can get home with no further problems?”
- In the episode “The Hollow Planet” the Pussycats encounter a planet-sized ship that looks a lot like the Death Star from Star Wars.
If an all-girl pop music group thwarting mad scientists and would-be world conquerors seemed a little far-fetched in the previous season what is found during this run of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space makes those episodes seem downright plausible by comparison. The group’s bassist Valerie Brown (Barbara Pariot) was clearly the brains of the operation in the last season, what with her ability to hack into pretty much any device a mad scientist could come up with and then turn the tables on the villains, but this time out she inexplicably has the ability to pilot a spaceship as well as still being able to hack into whatever sci-fi piece of equipment they encounter during their deep space travels, which often includes reprograming a variety of alien robots to change sides and aid the Pussycats, but what is more unbelievable than Valerie’s inexplicable mad skills at space travel is the gang’s inability to stop Alexandra from messing up their chances to get home.
What is an improvement this time out is that the musical performances by the Pussycats were no longer something to simply bookend an episode but were often used to thwart the alien threat of the day, either as a distraction so they could escape or possibly even shatter an alien city with their powerful pop music soundwaves, of course, the real reason was so that we could be treated to some more incredibly catchy tunes.
The target audience for Saturday morning cartoons was obviously kids, and studios were not given much in the way of budgets when it came to the animation, which was always fairly limited and relied heaving on the ability to recycle – groups of characters seen running past the same background elements over and over again was a prime example of this – but while the varied settings of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space provided the artists with more free reign and creativity when it came to building alien worlds the animation was still a step back and at times as the characters often looked as if they’d been drawn by a sleep-deprived pre-schooler. They also saved money by simply re-using the footage of the band performing their songs from the first season, despite the fact that this footage shows them in their traditional Pussycat costumes and not their spacefaring garb, and there is no reason to believe they would have had those outfits with them when they fell into the spaceship, not to mention how their instruments mysteriously ended up on board.
The idea of sending Josie and the Pussycats into outer space was certainly an interesting direction to take the show and legendary artist like Alex Toth, the man who gave the world such animated classics as The Herculoids, Space Ghost & Dino Boy and Thundarr the Barbarian, provided the special model designs for this wacky space adventure and so one can’t help but admire what the show was trying to achieve with its science fiction setting, unfortunately, Alexandra’s idiotic behaviour was even more tiresome this time out and with the show ending after just sixteen episodes and us never even finding out if they ever made it home, there were some disappointing elements that would end up concerning some viewers. Overall, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space was a light and goofy show that was never to be taken seriously but it wouldn’t have hurt things if the writers had taken their jobs a little more seriously and given us more than simple cardboard adventures for our heroes to face.
Note: It would take three decades before Josie and the Pussycats would be able to again escape the pages of Archie Comics, this time in a live-action film that would end up becoming a cult film favourite.
Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space (1972)
Series Rank - 6/10
With such a goofy premise and poor animation on display Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space is a hard one to recommend to any but the die hardest fan but there is still some charm to be found here and the songs are quite catchy.