Today marks a milestone for the Brooklyn-based Italian plumber-adventurer Mario Mario. With the launch of the new video game Super Mario Run, the video game character makes the leap from Nintendo video game consoles to Apple iPhones. While many video game fans are excited by a new Mario handheld adventure, it is tinged with a dark reminder that this month marks 25 years since he was last on our TV screens.
Sure, he has been on our TV screens in video game form many times since 1991 (less so on my TV in recent weeks, with an inability to buy a Nintendo Classic Mini - they're more scarce than Tickle Me Elmo's ever were), but that has ONLY been in video game form. Back when I was a kid, Mario was a regular staple on telly as a bona fide TV star with weekly adventures.
Taking the wayback machine to 1989, Mario and his brother Luigi were the stars of The Super Mario Bros Super Show. In 65 episodes, former wrestler "Captain" Lou Albano and actor Danny Wells played Mario and Luigi on screen in a live-action show with the two plumbers living in their Brooklyn apartment. Surprisingly for two Brooklyn-based plumbers, a large number of celebrities featured in their day-to-day lives with stars like Norman Fell, Eve Plumb, Danica McKellar, Ernie Hudson, and Magic Johnson popping by.
Of course, no kid was watching the show for these segments, which book-ended a cartoon in every super show. The cartoon was where the eyeballs actually were.
On the daily show, from Monday through Thursday, The Super Mario Bros Super Show featured a Mario Bros cartoon featuring stories based on the Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3 video games for the NES. While Mario and Luigi were the obvious draws for the show, kids were treated every Friday to a Legend of Zelda cartoon.
With 65 episodes in the can, the minimum number of episodes for a cartoon to enter into syndication, The Super Mario Bros Super Show was brought to an end. A year later, a dedicated cartoon was launched. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3. Only 26 episodes of this series aired.
A third series followed in 1991 with Super Mario World. While only 13 episodes were aired. Super Mario World was notable for its theme song, produced by former Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh.
Mario and Luigi have obviously been far more successful in the video game world than they were on TV (or in THAT live action movie which nobody likes to talk about), but it's sad to think that this month marks 25 years since the Super Mario World cartoon finished up. Mario Mario and Luigi Mario are beloved characters who deserve to live on again in narrative-based adventures on the TV. It's a rich, vibrant world filled with family-friendly storytelling opportunities and it is legitimately a shame that the world of Mario has never been explored in that way adequately.
Mario, I miss you on my TV.