Saturday, 15 February 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Two For Tee Vee

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Towsley; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written By Warren Foster; Story Director – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Narrator, Woman on Phone, Dog – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1962?
Plot: TV repairman Huck is stopped in his efforts to fix a set by a snickering dog.

57 Huckleberry Hound cartoons were aired and “Two For Tee Vee” was the final one put into production. Nine were produced for Huck’s final season (1961-62) with only two of those written by Warren Foster. This is one of them.

“Two For Tee Vee” shows Foster’s cynicism toward television at the start, with Don Messick’s intoning narrator explaining without TV repairmen, “we would miss many of our favourite programmes that have become part of our daily life.” The “favourite programmes” turn out to be nothing more than old “B” and foreign films that were, at the time, constantly on TV because they were cheap for stations to buy from syndicators. Quality had nothing to do with it; filling air-time inexpensively did. The gag is a variation on the “nothing-but-westerns-on-TV’ routine that Tex Avery and Heck Allen pulled off in 1953’s “TV of Tomorrow” (the forest of antennae in the opening of this cartoon owes something to “TV of Tomorrow,” too).

Foster doesn’t have much good to say about the intelligence of television viewers. “Yes, Lady?” says Huck to a customer on the phone, “Your set gets your programmes all mixed up, huh? Well, I mean, that wouldn’t have to be the set, ma’am, uh uh. Y’see, there are a lot of mixed up programmes.” Then he fits in a song reference: “The Texas Rangers get mixed up with the private eyes and it comes out the private eyes of Texas are upon us? That sounds like fun, ma’am.”

After backing his rickety service van into a wall, Huck arrives at the customer’s home. The cartoon now switches to the main plot—a snickering dog in the house tries to stop Huck from doing his job. The idea was used in five previous Huck cartoons and then much later by the studio with Muttley and a number of other dogs.

● The dog plugs in the set to try to electrocute Huck.
● The dog steals the NACL-2504-HB-52-42 spare tube then chomps on Huck’s butt when he takes it back. The dog then grabs the tube back and leads Huck on a chase up a long flight of stairs then down a bannister.
● The dog digs a hole in the yard. Huck peers in. The dogs shoves him in and covers the hole with dirt. At least Huck gets the tube back.
● Huck’s installing the tube in the set. The dog chomps on his butt again. Huck jumps into the set and becomes trapped when the dog screws the cardboard cover on the back of the set. The cartoon ends with the dog watching Huck on TV and snickering for the ninth time.

Assorted Huckisms:
● “They [customers] all get riled when we mention ‘shop.’ See, no matter what’s wrong, we’re supposed to fix it all spread out on the livin’ room floor.”
● “I likes to work with nobody around. No silly questions like, uh, ‘What are all the tubes for?’ As if anyone knows.”
● “On these kind of TV service calls, a fella don’t make a nickel.”

Don Towsley animated this cartoon. He was born in Wisconsin in 1912, spent part of his youth in Atlanta and then worked through much of the ‘40s for Walt Disney. He freelanced on Bob Clampett’s “It’s a Grand Old Nag,” released in 1947. He was in New York City by 1952 and employed for Lee Blair’s Film Graphics, an industrial animation house. The April 1961 edition of “Top Cel,” the newsletter of animation’s union New York local, revealed Towsley was taking a three-month vacation in Mexico. The October edition states Towsley decided to stay at Hanna-Barbera but the December edition reported he was no longer at the studio. He later worked on the Chuck Jones’ Tom and Jerrys.

He does his best to try to get some personality into the limited animation. He draws a little foot-stomping cycle on the bulldog during his snickering at the end of the cartoon. And he perks up Huck’s ears when the phone rings at the beginning. The ears go up when Huck’s moving his head back; it might have been more effective if the ears went up (like a take) after the head stopped moving. He also jerks the head back and forth during dialogue and varies the position of the head from side to side. His Huck’s actually pretty attractive but this is the only Huck cartoon he worked on.

Here are a couple of Art Lozzi backgrounds.

The Hoyt Curtin cues include two snippets of his piano-xylophone version of “English Country Garden” and a couple of versions of “Clementine,” including one with an arrangement with piano and bells. The longest cue is a 45-second electric organ piece meant to evoke a chase in silent films when Huck runs after the dog up, ending the dog digging in the yard. Feel free to let me know if it’s a Hammond or a Wurlitzer.


  1. Great Post! I'm fortunate to own the last Huck episode title card. Love this cartoon!

  2. You forgot to mention "Old English Movies", "Old Italian Movies", and "Old French Movies" [and some very amusing cartoon shows featuring a Western horse, and a Government-protected national park which Huck might note, "Let's face it- if I don't fix that lady's teley-vision set, we'd ALL be out of a job!"].

  3. I didn't "forget." I summarised it. I'm not going to type endless trivia.

  4. Strange that Warren Foster would be so cynical about TV, considering how many TV-based Warner Bros. cartoons he got story credit for in the 1950's, such as "The Honeymousers" and a lot of other Bob McKimson-directed cartoons.

    1. I think you're mixing Warren Foster with Tedd Pierce. Pierce was the one who wrote those TV parodies for McKimson.

    2. Pierce was, of course, also the only one of the big three 1950s WB cartoon writers not to work at HB (unlike Maltese and Foster), though he did work at UPA and Format/Ross Bagdasarian ("The Alvin Show"). And I love this episode, too, for both dogs (the snickering and Huckleberry kind) the end for the time being.S.C.

    3. Steve, watch the first scene of "Elroy's TV Show." Foster rips apart television pretty well there. I can't help but wonder if he was getting a dig in at the TV writers Joe Barbera hired when HB got into the prime-time sitcom business.

  5. My father was a TV repairman, so as a youngster I was thrilled to see Huck doing the same job. My father also was a fan of Huck, and I seem to recall that he thought that cartoon was pretty funny.

  6. I should add that I eventually went to work for my dad, and he would sometimes send me out on housecalls. Lucky for me, none of the customers had a snickering dog.

  7. I liked the TV repairman satire of the first part of the cartoon, but never was all that hot over the second half, possibly because of the design of the dog here -- though I probably wasn't that much of an H-B design connoisseur at age 5 to know that was the reason. But he just seemed less appealing than the earlier snickering dog designs in the Huck series (little did I know in 1962 that the guest star here was the wave of the future and the original main- and secondary-character models were the ones on their way out)

  8. I really should have commented on that, J.L. It's Chopper's head on a teeny body. But, yeah, he wouldn't be out of place in a mid-'60s HB show.

    1. I do remember in 1962 when the Wally-Touche-Lippy cartoons hit syndication recognizing there was just something .... different ... about the way the characters looked, compared not just to the previous H-B syndicated fare, but all the designs for the prime-time shows (including The Jetsons, which would debut at the same time as the new syndicated shorts). I never could fully explain what the difference was during my kindergarten period of TV cartoon viewing, but over the next few years it was clear that the updated designs tied in to what the studio was doing at least through the end of the Atom Ant-Secret Squirrel runs, when they studio began catering more towards what the notwork executives wanted and more realistic-looking characters.

      The designs for the Huck-Quick Draw and Yogi shows were now the 'old look', as were those for the studio's first three prime-time shows. Even then, I wasn't happy about the decision, since the new style seemed less appealing (Chopper has a bit of the new design in him, but the big body fits the big head and gives the character a little bit more balanced weight. Since the earliest of the Wally-Touche-Lippy shorts carry 1961 copyrights, while the last of the Hiuck-Quick Draw-Yogi ones are marked 1962, so I'd assume the old and new looks were sharing space for a while. I'm just glad the new character designs when Yogi got his own show fit in with the already-existing stars, and didn't go off in the more modern, less MGM-influenced direction).

  9. I remember very well that first " Huckism " being true. Back in the day when the TV/Hi-Fi Repair man showed up, people would get very alarmed if he had to take the TV to the shop to work on the tube. " Can't fix it here, huh?..How long will you have it?". week? " I had to laugh when I read the first " Huckism ".

  10. Don Towsley's name shows up in a couple of late 60s DFE shorts too: 'Pink on the Cob' and 'Carte Blanched'.

  11. This is the final Huck cartoon to be aired before Yogi's Birthday Special.