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When Bo, Jordan, and Gretzky Ruled the World

 

Back in the nineties three men presided over sports royalty. There was Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and yes, Bo Jackson. Bo knew everything. Bo knew sports. So it was only obvious that these three titans should get their own animated series. Jordan was almost a God to some people, so there was literally nothing Jordan wasn’t in, in the decade. He was in music videos with Michael Jackson, he had a Looney Tunes movie, there were statues, and he endorsed underwear, and hot dogs. And heck, even Martians knew who Wayne Gretzky was.

“ProStars” seemed like the next logical step for the trio.

ProStars was absurd but, by virtue of nostalgia, it’s still a lot of fun. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the pitch meeting for this series. For the most part, ProStars was a pretty ridiculous but beautifully engineered series that managed to capitalize on the appeal of three aforementioned stars. They were money makers, highly publicized, and worshiped among legions of sports fans across the world. So… an animated series was a great cog in their publicity machine. Originally intended to air on ESPN, the series came from a long tradition of sports-inspired Saturday Morning cartoons like Super Globetrotters and Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, where sports stars just inexplicably want to fight crime in their quest to be good role models.

Just to reinforce how goofy the series was, the intro is a mixture of sports footage featuring the trio and their animated counterparts fighting crime. The theme song then has to basically explain their respective sport, their back story, origin, how they decided to fight crime, and establish the series’ premise in just over a minute. Every Pro Star has to get their own time in, and it tries heavily to sell to sports fans and general audiences. As a kid I hated sports, but even when ProStars came on I considered the premise to be brilliant.

I mean, three of the biggest sports star fighting crime? That’s amazing! Even if they were too recognizable to be covert and even if a bad injury could ruin their career, it was still rather incredible. Luckily, the trio had their own special gizmos to enhance their natural sports skills.

Michael Jordan, who could jump really high, has rocket powered sneakers that allow him to swoop through the air and inflatable basketballs.

Wayne Gretzky has his own skate shoes and weaponized hockey pucks and sticks he used to fling at enemies.

Bo Jackson, who represents baseball and football, has his own specialized bat that can shoot balls, grappling hooks, and assorted lasers.

Each of their “weapons” were assigned to them by their technician, Mom, and her assistant who keeps the trio in check with her zaniness and tech savvy.

The ProStars operated out of a secret gym where they took requests from children for new missions. Apparently, since they have no careers or family on the show, they merely wait around for calls and are always in full regalia which are, of course, matching sports jerseys that suit their body types. Keeping with the positive messaging for children every episode began with a few words from the stars of the show in the flesh. Oddly enough, while Gretzky and Jackson offer their own words and descriptions on upcoming episodes, Michael Jordan is nowhere to be found.

He is only really featured in archive footage and there is no shortage of stills with him slam dunking. Predictably, ProStars becomes very exhausting after more than two episodes, and much of it feels like a cheap-o cash grab. Looking back at it, it all feels so stitched together like other animated vehicles for celebrities like New Kids on the Block, MC Hammer, Kid and Play, and Macaulay Culkin.

Every episode revolves around sports and every episode contains a stock villain who devises their own traps for the ProStars and is foiled in the end because of the team’s courage and ability to be unstoppable sports stars. Come to think of it, there isn’t a single villain in the show I can really remember. The writers also made sure never to plant focus on one particular member of the at any time.

There’s zero back story or exposition to anything that goes on and the small range of supporting characters are there merely punch lines for weak gags and goofy exchanges between the baffled sports superheroes. Even with its endorsements from Jackson and Gretzky, the series didn’t last long. ProStars is a mixed bag but it definitely knew what made the audiences come back for more. Despite the low budget I imagine there were plans for a huge merchandise line, but alas, the series never quite leapt over that hurdle. It does have a great theme song in the tune of “We Will Rock You,” though!

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pikachulover Posted on Sep 30, 2019 at 08:05 AM

I don't think I watched this show when it first ran I think I caught some reruns many years later. To me I thought the concept was so strange even for a throwaway kids' cartoon in the early 90s. The one thing I noticed is that when this show aired they all played for teams based out of Los Angeles or Chicago. Jordan; Chicago Bulls. Gretzky ; Los Angeles Kings. Jackson; Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Raiders.

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