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Mighty Morphin Ripoff Rangers Part 2

As covered in my previous article (Click Here to read Part 1), the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show spawned a whole host of martial arts imitators over the years, most of which were laughable attempts to ape an already laughable show. So let’s explore some more Mighty Morphin Ripoff Rangers from the 90’s that tried to roundhouse kick their way into our hearts and our parent’s wallets.

VR Troopers (Click here to watch the intro)

VR Troopers was essentially what Mighty Morphin Power Rangers would have been if Zordon told Alpha to find “teenagers with angst” instead of “teenagers with attitude”. This was the first attempt by Saban to re-create the success of MMPR and I guess they were going for a more serious take on children’s action programming while jumping on the Virtual Reality craze of the 90’s.

The basic story followed martial artist/computer genius Ryan Steele, who along with his friends Kaitlin and J.B. would travel into the virtual reality dimension to battle the evil villain, Grimlord in their robotic hero forms. Ryan was always in search of his father who had disappeared and they got help from the digitized Professor Hart, who was stuck inside a computer. There was also a talking dog, which was groan inducing, even as a kid. The tone of this show was all over the place and as a result, I don’t think it clicked with many kids. For an adventure program that was so tech based, it was strange to me that they transformed using magical jewels called Virtualizers. They couldn't have just typed something onto a keyboard and jumped into a computer screen?

I never heard anybody talk about VR Troopers in my neighborhood, which is strange because it hit in the middle of Power Rangers mania. At first glance it seemed like they had something going with the cool looking robot armor and their arsenal of virtual weapons, but there were no giant robot vehicles and no code names, which never sat right with me. I know the Power Rangers were mostly referred to by their first names, but you could also alternate to the Red or Green Ranger titles. With VR Troopers you had to settle for calling the main character Ultimate Ryan Steele at play time, which was about as exciting as Ultimate Al Gore. 

Big Bad BeetleBorgs (Click here to watch the intro)

The premise of this show was so wacky, it was definitely worth a watch on weekday afternoons. 3 comic book loving kids sneak into a haunted house and meet a wisecracking ghost named Flabber who looked like the love child of Jay Leno, Liberace and the Genie from Aladdin. Very appropriately he granted them a wish, which was to become their favorite comic book heroes, the Big Bad Beetleborgs, but this also brought to life the evil villains from the comics led by Vexor, which they battled each episode.

The cool thing was that the hero kids had powers in their human forms, like telekinesis, super speed and super strength before they ever changed into Beetleborgs. The fact that the main characters were the same age as children watching the show should have made it really easy for kids to imagine themselves becoming one of the insectoid heroes, but just like teenage girls always want to be mature college students, so do elementary school kids long for the freedom of high school. It just didn’t connect.

Another issue was that there were just too many characters. You had the main trio, their families, the bully kids and Flabber’s house full of monsters that he palled around with. In the era of Goosebumps, the more monsters the better, but they really should have gotten their own show called Magic Monster Marines or something, so that characters like Frankenbeans and Count Fangula could really strut their stuff. This wild hodgepodge of ideas may have been hard to take seriously, but there was never any doubt that you were going to see some colorful characters every few minutes.

Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills (Click here to watch the intro)

Now that’s a mouthful. To this day I still cannot get the name right without looking it up, which may have had something to do with why so few people remember this show. Even at the time they knew it was cumbersome and their promo commercials on the USA Network were more about how to remember the title of the show than what action was to come (Click here to watch the promo). That or the fact that it looked like it was funded by somebody’s earnings from a lemonade stand.

It’s the story of 4 Beverly Hills teenagers selected by an Alien blob named Nimbar to become Godzilla-sized “Galactic Sentinels” and battle evil. Which basically translated to personal trainers from the local gym in pleather workout gear and silver face masks fighting rubber suited monstrosities. They combined powers to form a different giant warrior named Knightron, which was nothing more than a guy in a suit of armor with sword and shield.

Look, the heroes in this thing were pretty lackluster, but where the show did shine was the cast. The actors actually had some charisma on screen and the fact that the teens weren’t necessarily friends made the stories more interesting. It was more akin to The Breakfast Club than Power Rangers in that regard. Plus, Leslie Danon, who played Laurie was very easy on the eyes to a young man like myself.

Produced by a company that was not Saban, I think this show had the benefit of not falling into the standard format of the Power Rangers style, which was overly cartoony. There was kind of a renegade edge to Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills that I could appreciate. Ultimately I think it was the fact that this show was airing on cable and at least in my area at 6:30am that led to its single season run.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at some of the super martial arts team also-rans from the 90’s. I know I left off Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog (Medieval Celtic mysticism? No thanks) and I guess you could count Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation as a wanna-be Power Rangers as well, but I never gave those shows enough attention to gain an opinion.

So tell me, have I totally offended you? Were you a die-hard Beetleborgs fan? Was your cousin one of the Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills? Sound off below.

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Mar 24, 2016 at 07:25 PM

@Vaporman87 Yeah, they stacked those other shows with so many goofy characters, it's almost like they thought kids were tuning in to see Bulk and Skull every week (I secretly kinda was).

@pikachulover That's cool that you have VR Troopers connection. It would have been very strange to see "Tommy" heading up another show, but it would definitely made VR Troopers more watchable.

@echidna64 Though I only watched the later series sporadically over the years, I think Power Rangers actually got a little cooler with the later versions like Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and SPD. Putting them in space just made more sense.

echidna64 Posted on Mar 23, 2016 at 07:33 PM

I liked VR Troopers but the rest were pretty bad. Power Rangers essentially became a rip-off of itself with all of the ill-conceived reboots, I can't believe it is still going strong on tv!

pikachulover Posted on Mar 23, 2016 at 02:20 AM

Actually VR Toopers was supposed to be called Cybertron with Jason David Frank in the lead role. But he was so popular on Power Rangers they went in a different direction with the show. Another thing about that show was that they used Japanese footage from 2 different shows. So that is why the 3 of them never teamed up together. I watched the show for a month or 2, but I could not get into it. My little cousin who my mom would baby sit and was a toddler at the time loved the talking dog.

I tried to like Beetleborgs, but by the time that show came out I was in 7th grade. It was not cool to like those shows by then. I heard a rumor that Flabber is supposed to be Elvis and Jay Leno combined. My cousin was an extra in one of the episodes. I think she was in the background in one of the town scenes. I forget which episode she was in.

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 22, 2016 at 07:02 PM

It's hard to fathom that studios felt so compelled to tap into the MMPR craze that they would produce such crazy shows. It was almost as though they thought the sheer campiness was the biggest selling point, and so the cornier and crazier the better. "Not so" said the viewing public.

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