Top Cat: Cartoon Icons of American TV
Top Cat is a Hanna-Barbera prime-time animated television series which was televised from September 27, 1961 to April 18, 1962, for a run of 30 episodes on the ABC network. Originally broadcast on Wednesday evenings 8:30-9:00 pm, Top Cat was co-sponsored by Kellogg's and Bristol-Myers (whose best selling product was Bufferin).
The central character, Top Cat—called "T C" by his friends—is the leader of a gang of colorful New York City alley cats: Benny the Ball, Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Brain-Brain, and Choo-Choo, who essentially constitute a cartoon ensemble cast.
Some industry insiders say Top Cat and his gang were inspired by characters from the high-ranked situation comedy of the era, You'll Never Get Rich (later called The Phil Silvers Show), and was probably influenced by the popular movie shorts, The Bowery Boys. (Maurice Gosfield, who played Private Duane Doberman on The Phil Silvers Show, provided the voice for Benny the Ball.)
Top Cat, a yellow-furred, streetwise alley cat, is lazy and admittedly opportunistic; and clearly far more clever than his inexperienced and naive pals. Always seen wearing a sporty purple hat and jacket, the storylines often evolve around him taking advantage of his gang’s gullibility, while scheming to pull one over on Officer Dibble, the local beat cop who wants to rid the alley of Top Cat and his gang because they are constantly scamming to make a quick buck. (Top Cat often talks his way out of getting arrested by plying Dibble with insincere compliments.) Though he invariably seems to appreciate (begrudgingly) the efforts his gang makes--who are always going out on a limb for him--he often takes credit for their accomplishments.
> Benny “the Ball” is T C's right-hand man (cat). Short, chubby, cute but naïve, this blue-colored cat likes to wear a white sweater fastened with a single button at his neck. Though often appearing to be quite simple-minded, Benny is nevertheless the one who poses the most logical questions during the gang's often hair-brained schemes. And though T C often takes advantage of his little buddy, there seems to be genuine affection between the two.
Often taking center-stage, Benny was the focus of attention in several episodes including, "The Violin Player,” "The Unscratchables," "The Missing Heir," and "A Visit From Mother," in which T C arranges for Benny to appear to be the Mayor of New York City.
> Choo-ChooChoo-Choo, aka Chooch, a pink fire house cat with Siamese eyes and a white long-sleeve turtle-neck shirt, is the tallest of the alley gang. Devoted to T C--even when he’s clueless as to why he’s doing what he’s doing--Chooch is always enthusiastic about Top Cat's plans. Though completely inept when dealing with the fairer sex, the love-sick Chooch manages a couple love connections as highlighted in "Choo-Choo's Romance" and "Choo-Choo Goes Gaga-Gaga.” (When he talks, he sounds remarkably like Woody Allen.)
> Brain-Brain one of Top Cat’s most loyal followers. Contrary to his name (which appears to have been given in jest), Brain-Brain is the most dim-witted member of the alley gang. Known for his uncontrollable stutter and for being unable to ever keep a secret, Brain-Brain is an orange cat with a purple T-Shirt with a black stripe. Despite the absurdity of it, he somehow always gets put in charge of the group's money--which they rarely have. And while he clearly lacks common sense, he nonetheless comes up with the brilliant things sometimes, which T C instantly rephrases to make it sound like he thought of them.
> Fancy-Fancy is another of Top Cat’s most loyal followers. He is laid-back, sweet-talking, and is regularly seen charming the females before he invariably has to leave when he hears the gang's call to arms: the “dustbin lid call.” Fancy-Fancy (whose voice is modeled after Cary Grant) is brown cat with a white scarf.
> Spook-Spook is a cool Beatnik pool sharp with green fur and a torn black tie who rarely speaks, but when he does, his jargon is laced with plenty of "like"'s.
> Officer Dibble (Officer Charlie Dibble) is an NYPD Policeman whose beat includes the gang’s favorite alley. Though he usually resents the gang's alley activities--because it only makes his job harder--there are times when he seems to truly like and respect T C and the guys. T C likes to demonstrate his authority by using Dibble’s call box (telephone) and by refusing to keep the alley clean.
While Top Cat enjoyed a considerable following in the U S with both kids and adults, the show was a massive hit in Mexico, Peru, and Argentina, where he is recognized as one of the most famous Hanna-Barbera characters ever, equal to the phenomenal Flintstones.
In Mexico the show is aired under the name Don Gato y su pandilla (literally Mr. Cat and his gang, but stands for Mr. Top Cat or just Top Cat like in the United States) and the main characters appropriately adopted different accents from a variety of famous Latino actors.
Today in the US, reruns are shown on Cartoon Network's classic animation network Boomerang.
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