Wait, MAD Magazine had a TV pilot in the 1970’s?

I, like many of my generation, adored MAD Magazine. I enjoyed the subversive humor and parodies, the off-the-wall Don Martin cartoons, the Spy v. Spy battles from Antonio Prohias, the hilarious margin cartoons from Sergio Aragones, the Al Jaffee “fold-in” on the back cover, yeah, all of that.

Now I’m aware that there were at least two MAD Magazine TV shows – there was a MAD TV program that ran for about 15 years or so as a Saturday late night FOX series.

More recently, Cartoon Network had an animated MAD cartoon series for a while. The less said about it, the better.

Notice, I said “at least two TV shows.”

Because there was this third one … an animated special that was constructed as a pilot for a future TV series … that recently showed up on one of my YouTube searches.

See, in 1973, ABC was offered a pilot for a TV series that would draw its humor from MAD Magazine, including parodies, surrealism and satire. What came out was this 30-minute pilot.

The animation was more detailed than you would normally see on a Saturday morning cartoon lineup, as if Ralph Bakshi and Gene Deitch tried to one-up each other in an animation competition. And yeah, the humor is rather blue by 1970’s TV standards. Plus, how was anybody going to sponsor a program where the show itself made fun of the products? I mean, MAD Magazine could get away with it, simply by not allowing advertising in their publication at all, but you couldn’t run a program with no ads on TV in 1973 and make money from it. Not unless it aired on PBS, and even then, you’re looking at a ton of underwriting and grants. But I digress.

The series was never picked up, so all we have is this little curiosity feature. And there are some funny moments in it, and there are some that completely fell flat. You know, just like a typical 1970’s MAD Magazine issue.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the worst MAD Magazine project out there. For that, we have to move to 1980 and MAD Magazine’s “Up the Academy,” a film so dreadful that MAD eventually took their name out of the film’s title.

Yeah, maybe I’d rather have a Spy v. Spy sitcom instead. Probably would work out better for me. 😀