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CENTURIONS: Marketing Xtreme!

When I was a kid, there was a barrage of cartoons that were just gigantic advertisements for toys.

You see, early in the 1980s, the FCC revised its rules towards advertising and children’s programming; specifically, “character marketing.”

Basically, advertisers could now base entire cartoons and characters on a toy line and the FCC didn’t consider it advertising.  This opened the floodgates for corporations to make a cartoon that was really just a 30 minute ad and the FCC didn’t care.

Because this was so lucrative, we kids were bombarded with programs that showcased characters and vehicles that you could buy at the toy store rather than actual content.

Enter: The Centurions.

The Centurions are a team that, upon shouting “Power Extreme,” could fuse to exo-suits and save the day.

Originally, there were three: Max Ray (ocean specialist), Jake Rockwell (land specialist), and Ace McCloud (air specialist).  Besides having pornstar names, their mission was to stop the evil cyborg Doc Terror and his assistant, Hacker, from taking over the world using their drones called Traumatizers, Strafers, and Groundborgs.

The Centurions was a full court press version of what I was speaking of above.

The production company, Ruby-Spears Productions, went all-out prepping The Centurions; they hired Jack Kirby and Gil Kane (yes, THAT Kirby and Kane) and Doug Wildey (Dave Stevens’ basis for Peevy in The Rocketeer) to do character design work and some of the stories were written by veteran science fiction writers Larry DiTillio, Marc Scott Zicree, Michael Reaves and Gerry Conway.

The series explored some slightly interesting themes, my personal favorite being the relationship man has with technology.  However, this is really just a small glimmer of story that one of the above noted authors most likely brought to the table and was shot down by the producers.

More than anything, The Centurions was an excuse to sell those sweet toys.

I mean, that was most of the 80s anyway – one big ad.  The Centurions didn’t really have much going for it other than the toys and designs for said toys.  The episodes were shallow adventures that had a weekly theme and would pretty much tie up the loose ends after 30 minutes.

And yes, I can hear the people up top, cigar in hand, yelling at me “Whatdoya want, Shakespeare? It’s a goddamn kid’s show!” 

But this is a total cop-out and I’m tired of that thinking. 

There is no reason other than completely selling out your audience to have Kirby, Kane, and the sci-fi names I mentioned above and produce such bland, run-of-the-mill garbage.  Ruby-Spears Productions had a chance to do something interesting and still laugh all the way to the bank but didn’t.

I get it – if you like the series for nostalgia’s sake good on you.  But don’t you dare come back all angry at me for saying what I did when you know I have a point; Ruby-Spears Productions dropped the ball. Good writers, good design, interesting concept and what do they do? 

Turn it into a 30 minute long commercial for toys.

Well, I guess you could say that about most of the 80s.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cry for a half-an-hour as I reflect on my childhood.

Until next time…

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