I’ve always had a huge interest in movies and TV shows that are aimed at kids. I was that weird guy who would sit in his college dorm room watching afternoon cartoons on UHF channels. But even for a self-described man-child, there are times in life where you have to be an adult. The fall of 1993 was one of those times for me. I was at the point where I was getting ready for big life changes like career, marriage, and moving across the country. So, needless to say, I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to enjoy what was the biggest new kids program in the country at that time…a strange little superhero show called Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Besides, the thing looked really cheesy and dumb.
I admit, I didn’t know much about the show at the time. I knew that it featured a group of teenagers who battled monsters with giant robots called “zords.” I knew that the toys from the show were extremely popular. I was working at a Target store at the time and we couldn’t keep those things on the shelves for more than about three hours when a new shipment came in. Lastly, I knew that the girl who played the pink ranger was extraordinarily cute. Before you think me creepy for crushing on a high school chick, bear in mind that she was quite a bit older than the part she was playing. In reality she was actually a few months older than I was. Those three things were pretty much the extent of my knowledge of this show. Plus, as I said before, the thing looked really really stupid. My friends and I used to jokingly call it Mighty MORON Power Rangers. But with age comes wisdom, and in recent years I have developed a new appreciation for this wonderfully bizarre series.
The show centers around five teenagers who live in the town of Angel Grove, California. If the place were real it would top the annual list of most dangerous places to live in the US, due to the regular attacks by giant monsters. Who is responsible for these giant monster attacks, you may ask? One Rita Repulsa, a nasty sorceress accidentally freed from her space prison after 10,000 years behind bars. She is joined by her own group of loyal, and somewhat inept, minions. These include Finster, a scientist type who makes the monsters, Squatt, a short pudgy blue monster, Baboo, who looks a bit like a cross between a bat and C3-PO, and Goldar, a blue lion with wings who walks upright and wears gold armor. Rita is also served by an army of foot soldiers referred to as Putties
Our five heroes are recruited by a big floating head called Zordon, and his excitable robot helper Alpha, to fend off Rita’s attacks. Each of the Power Rangers wears a different colored uniform and has their own robot vehicle, or Zord, which they pilot. The zords all resemble various prehistoric creatures. The red ranger, and defacto leader of the group, is Jason (Austin St. John). He pilots the tyrannosaurus zord. The compassionate Trini (Thuy Trang) is the yellow ranger. Her zord is the sabre tooth tiger.
Zack (Walter Jones) is the black ranger. His zord is the mastadon, and he is quite the dancer. Blue ranger Billy (David Yost) is the brains of the operation. He creates several useful inventions for the team and controls the triceratops zord. Last is the aforementioned pink ranger, Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson). She’s a talented gymnast and soars high with her pterodactyl zord. As if Rita and her gang weren’t enough to contend with, these teens also have to deal with bullies Bulk and Skull (Paul Shrier & Jason Narvy) causing trouble on a smaller scale. Another ranger, Tommy (Jason David Frank), joins the team eventually, but we’ll get to him when we start discussing the episodes.
Power Rangers was produced by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy, a pair of music composers turned media moguls. I’ve got to admit that what these two did with this show was quite a brilliant idea. The footage of the American teenagers was original to this show, but the zords, monsters, and kung fu action all originated as part of Japan’s long-running Super Sentai series. Different incarnations of the series have been in constant rotation on Japanese TV since 1975. Since when our heroes are in their full ranger outfits their faces are completely covered, no 90’s kids could tell the difference. This also allowed the producers to change some things…most notably the fact that in the Japanese series the yellow ranger was a guy, and here it’s a girl. That explains why the pink ranger’s uniform has a skirt, but the yellow ranger does not. A much more obvious clue to the origin of certain scenes was the fact that Rita’s mouth movements never matched the words she was saying. That aside, though, I would imagine that production costs for Power Rangers was relatively low considering that only a portion of each episode was new footage. The formula certainly worked, though. The show became a ratings champ for the Fox Network’s weekday afternoon kids block of programming. Two feature films were inspired by the show (with a reboot movie due to be released in 2017) and there has been an endless stream of follow-up series’ for over 20 years.
A few years ago my strange sense of curiosity drove me to start watching this show with my son. I was thoroughly surprised at how entertaining the series is. Yes, the stories are silly, but there’s something strangely charming about the show. There are a lot of fun martial arts action sequences that are actually quite exciting. Then there’s the kaiju angle! I mean come on…giant monsters fighting giant robots, what’s not to like? Well, of course, some folks found stuff not to like. When the show was initially released in 1993, some parent groups loudly proclaimed that the show was way too violent for kids. But hey, that’s what they used to say about the Three Stooges shorts I watched as a kid. The cries of whiny parents didn’t do any good, though, all the monster action wrapped up in an oh-so-90’s package created a weird and wonderful kids classic.
145 episodes of this baby were made, making up three seasons (it was a daily show, remember). So, we’ve got a long way to go on this. We’d better get to it. It’s morphin’ time!!