In the realm of “guilty pleasure” viewing, I have to put that classic chimpanzee spy comedy, Lancelot Link – Secret Chimp, pretty high up on my list! I found the show in the late 1980s when it aired as reruns on Nick at Night, and although it has some serious issues, I think for fans of WEIRD TV, it might be worth a watch!
Lancelot Link – Secret Chimp – Pickwick Group / Image Entertainment (2004)
Originally airing in the very early 1970s, Lancelot Link was a spoof version of the spy genre, based on the tried and true Get Smart! model, but in which all of the actors were replaced by chimpanzees. The chimps would be put into silly costumes and would be made to flap their mouths (sometimes obviously just chewing on stuff), and then dialog was overdubbed by voice actors doing various impersonations. The voice acting is often unpleasant, especially for the shrill, female voiced characters, and the accents are usually based on terrible, extremely un-P.C. stereotypes. And we’re talking Disney levels of stereotyping here, too, right out of The Aristocats or It’s a Small World ride. (The Dragon Lady, Baron Von Butcher, Ali Assa Seen, Chief Jumping Frog, etc., all with corresponding, offensive accents…) Racially sensitive individuals will find a lot to be bothered by here.
The plots are usually paper thin, the jokes are as corny as you can get, the voice acting is pretty unpleasant, and the cultural insensitivity borders on the outright racist—but I still enjoy watching the show. WHY??? Because chimpanzees are funny. Just watching these guys walk around in costumes and play with tennis rackets and other props is hilarious. I especially love the “musical interludes,” in which the band, Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution, play psychedelic power-pop bubblegum tunes while dressed in hippie attire! I genuinely like the songs (I’m a sucker for bubblegum pop), and I love watching the chimps banging away at various instruments and dancing around the room to the music. They seem to be having a great time.
As far as the corniness of the show goes, two of the writers for Lancelot Link were Mike Marmer and Stan Burns, who also worked on Get Smart!, so this show is filled with bad puns and goofy sight gags. If you enjoyed this type of silliness in Get Smart! or on the original Muppets t.v. show, you’ll probably enjoy it here, too. Overall, Lancelot Link is silly and bizarre, and it makes me laugh. (Sometimes, you just need to laugh.) My wife finds the show annoying, and I understand why, AND as I said earlier, people who are sensitive about racial stereotypes are going to be horrified. Maybe, before jumping at buying a DVD set, you should watch a couple of episode on YooToob as see if you can stand the heat! Personally, I think it’s F.A.B.
—Richard F. Yates
(Commander in Cheap of The Primitive Entertainment Workshop)