Idiot Box: “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” on Amazon
 Alibi V.25 No.25 • June 23-29, 2016 

Idiot Box

Surf and Turf

“Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” on Amazon

Sid and Marty Krofft spent much of the ’60s and ’70s confusing and delighting children every Saturday morning with their near-psychedlic brand of life-sized Muppet shows (“H.R. Pufnstuf,” “The Bugaloos,” “Lidsville,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost”). Amazingly, the elderly imagineers are still in business, having sold the fresh new series “Mutt & Stuff” to Nick Jr. in 2015. Now Amazon has gotten into the game, reviving and rebooting the Krofft brothers’ 1973-75 series “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” for a new generation.

As with all new Amazon shows, the online retailer has funded a pilot episode, which it distributes for free online. If demand proves big enough, Amazon will turn it into a full series, available for download by its Amazon Prime customers. With the demand for internet-based baby-sitting growing, there’s little reason to suspect “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” won’t become a sought-out property among nostalgic adults and their iPad smudging offspring.

The new version follows closely the formula laid out by the Gerald Ford era kiddie show. Johnny and Scott Stewart (Solomon Stewart and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) are sent to spend the summer with their aunt, who operates a seaside diner in picturesque Dead Man’s Cove. (In the original show, Johnny and Scott lived at home with their housekeeper while their parents were “away on vacation”—a rather suspicious scenario in today’s world.) One day the redheaded brothers stumble across a fat lump of seaweed on the beach. This tubby trashpile turns out to be an innocent young sea monster named Sigmund. The boys smuggle Sigmund back to their junk-filled clubhouse where they learn he’s being hunted by his mean older brothers Blurp and Slurp as well as a misguided local monster hunter named Captain Barnabas (David Arquette, in one of his weirder career decisions).

The original show was shot on a series of cheap studio sets. The remake uses real, outdoor locations. Nevertheless, the happy-goofy spirit of the original (right down to the surf-pop theme song) remains unchanged. Pay close attention and you’ll even catch old “Sigmund” star Johnny Whitaker in a small cameo.

The squiddy sea monster costumes, still foam-rubber-based, are far more detailed than their 1970s counterparts. To call them “realistic” isn’t quite accurate, but they’re several steps above Barney the Purple Dinosaur now. The new young stars acquit themselves well enough in the pilot, faithfully delivering the show’s simple and gentle message of friendship (with a slight nod to environmentalism—basically the suggestion to recycle your trash rather than toss it in the ocean). The adults in the cast, knowing this is aimed at wee ones, mug shamelessly (we’re all staring at you Mr. Arquette). In the context of talking sea monsters and slapstick humor, though, it’s fine.

Basically, if you grew up in the 1970s being alternately weirded out and entertained by the works of Sid and Marty Krofft, you owe it to yourself to revisit the world of “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” and, if possible, expose your offspring to it as well.

The pilot episode of “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” is available for streaming right now on amazon.com.