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Official Article

Mighty Morphin Ripoff Rangers Part 1

Scoff if you must, but the Power Rangers franchise of TV shows have shown an amazing staying power over the last 20 years. Not bad for a show that originally consisted of 50% recycled footage from old Japanese action programs. If you were alive and awake in 1993 you felt the Power Rangers mania, even if you never personally shouted, “It’s Morphin’ Time!” (which I did…unironically…at age 11…with a homemade cardboard Power Morpher in my hand).

The money-making merchandising of the “teenagers with attitude” did not go unnoticed by toy makers and entertainment companies, which spawned many imitators from 1993-1996. These “rip-offs” included attempts by Saban (the company that produced the original formula) trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice, as well as other studios looking to cash in on the fighting ninja teams craze. Today I’d like to share with you my recollections of these carbon copy sci-fi martial arts properties and their varying levels of success.

Masked Rider

An official spin-off series, the Masked Rider character actually appeared in a 3 part episode saga of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers to raise awareness of his own series debut in 1995. This show told the story of Prince Dex aka Masked Rider, an evolved insect alien hero sent to defend the Earth from the evil Count Dregon, who looked like a cross between Destro from G.I. Joe and Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. Mixing new American filmed footage along with action scenes from a Japanese series called Kamen Rider, this failed bit of TV nonsense took itself way too seriously. Most of that falls on the shoulders of its humorless star T.J. Roberts.

It’s like nobody told this skinny teenager that Masked Rider was a goofy kid’s show, so the guy tried to play each episode like he was Denzel Washington. Lest you think I hate T.J. Roberts, I have to admit that he is also the star of my favorite “so bad it’s good film” called Tiger Heart which entertains me to no end, but he takes himself way too seriously here. It’s like they knew T.J. would be no fun, so they gave him a furry comic relief sidekick named Ferbus and comically multi-racial family in the suburbs to live with. It didn’t help make him more appealing and it’s no surprise the show lasted only one season.

I think the real flaw of Masked Rider is that it was about a singular hero and not a team. We enjoyed the Power Rangers because they were a diverse group of personalities that banded together to save the day. If you didn’t like Jason’s karate exhibitions, you could enjoy Zak’s dance moves. If Trini was too Zen, you could get all valley girl with Kimberly. When you limit yourself to one hero, if the audience doesn’t connect with that individual, it’s game over.  

Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad

Super Human Samurai Syber Squad was a mouthful, but the show itself was pretty simple. A teenager named Sam Collins could hit a power chord on his electric guitar that transformed him into Servo, a metal-suited warrior that battled monster viruses inside his computer. Servo was assisted by his high school friends that could also shrink down to pilot vehicles that combined to form a robot warrior named Xenon. It was like Tron meets Godzilla with a dash of Saved By The Bell.

This show was a low-budget affair with most scenes taking place in Sam’s basement, but it managed to be pretty charming nonetheless. Matthew Lawrence was a big part of making it watchable, but you also had Tim Curry voicing the main villain, Kilokhan and the theme song was pretty rockin’. Of course the big get to me was Troy Slaten as Amp who had previously played the nerdy, trenchcoat wearing Jerry on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. He was still a dork in this show, just without the glasses.

Of course what really made this show work was that it was connected to the “Cyber World” of computers. The internet was just becoming a thing and we were still amazed by these magical boxes with keyboards attached, so who’s to say that there weren’t monsters battling martial arts robots in our monitors while we waited 3 hours for that picture of Jenni Garth from 90210 to download.

Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers

I’m not really sure how to categorize this strange television experiment. Let’s say you have the most popular kids show on TV, what is the most logical choice for your 4th season? Of course, you recast your stars as children, then introduce a replacement team of goofy looking fish people to take their place! Sounds like a winning formula, doesn’t it? Seriously, this was crazy. Well, what’s actually crazy is that I was 13 and still tuning in every weekday afternoon, but I digress.

Just to catch you up, some bad guy named Master Vile had transformed the Power Rangers into kids, so Zordon recruits these weird Aquitarian Rangers with Jellyfish on their heads to fill the void and they actually renamed the show, Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers. The real problem was that they just looked lame. If they had somehow come up with a cooler design than the Power Rangers we grew to love over 3 seasons, it would have been a fun change of pace. I mean, I accepted it when half the crew got replaced by Aisha, Rocky and Adam, but eliminating everybody and starting over with watered down heroes? You’ve officially lost me.

I mean literally, this is where I quit watching the show (which was probably for the best). Fittingly enough this mini-series was the official end of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and the series transformed into Power Rangers Zeo going forward. Really the only thing I can equate this whole nightmare to is that half a season of Dukes of Hazzard where the producers replaced Bo and Luke with their lookalike “Cousins” and thought we would be OK with it. For shame.

The truth is, there were so many of these shows, I can’t cover them all in one article. So look out for part 2 in the near future. In the meantime, tell me about some of the most memorable Power Rangers inspired shows you remember? Were you a fan of any of the ones mentioned above? If you say Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers I’m going to have to sick Goldar on you.

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Benjanime Posted on Feb 28, 2016 at 01:53 PM

oh no, I'm not one of die hard fans of the video games, i just enjoyed that show in particular and I hated seeing it get cut off from cancellation.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Feb 27, 2016 at 03:48 AM

@Rick Ace Rhodes Believe me, I wanted to like Masked Rider and even bought an action figure to try and jump start my fandom, but the show just didn't do it for me. Glad you are a loyal fan though.

Rick Ace Rhodes Posted on Feb 26, 2016 at 10:24 PM

Funny man, ever since my RJ days I was planning an article devoted to Saban's other adaptions.

Believe or not, I grew up on Masked Rider. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. I still have an old VHS tape filled with different episodes of the show. Looking back on it when I'm older I can see why so many people hate it, but it still holds a place in my heart.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Feb 24, 2016 at 02:18 PM

@Vaporman87 Obviously I was watching Power Rangers beyond the suggested age range, but I am with you on Pokemon, that show is garbage. I was watching an episode with my son recently and they literally just repeat variations of the same dialogue over and over again until they get to the Pokemon battle. Talk about mind-numbing.

@pikachulover Hopefully you can forgive my previous comment, but I'm glad to know you were on the fringe with me watching Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. I had a buddy with the Servo toy and one of the monsters and I thought it was pretty cool.

@Benjanime You Sonic fans are a loyal bunch and Jaleel White thanks you for the paychecks. That would be an interesting story to hear the details of. I thought Sonic aired on ABC and not FOX like MMPR, so there must have been some serious conspiracy theory stuff going on there.

Benjanime Posted on Feb 24, 2016 at 03:44 AM

I didn't find out until years later that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the reason why Sonic SATAM got cancelled, still ticks me off to this day.

pikachulover Posted on Feb 23, 2016 at 02:59 AM

I was a huge fan of SSSS. It was so wacky and low budget. I even had a small Servo figure. Syd was my favorite character. I used to say my little cousin acted like Tanker. Too bad hardly anybody in my 5th grade watched the show. By 6th grade at my school it was "uncool" to like any of those shows. Actually there was a double standard in 5th grade about those shows it was ok for boys to like them, but not girls because they were too "mature" to like them.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 23, 2016 at 02:31 AM

This craze came after my school age years, so I never understood it. MMPR and Pokemon both confused me. I didn't see what was so fascinating about either. But there was definitely an "Asian invasion" that was spearheaded by both franchises. The knock-offs of those franchises were laughably worse.

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