Sigmund and the Sea Monsters was a Saturday morning children’s show that ran from 1973-75. It was the fourth series from producers Sid & Marty Krofft, who had a long family tradition of entertainment, as they were fifth-generation puppeteers. According to Sid, it was their most successful. This set has 17 episodes spread over three discs.
The premise is that Sigmund Ooze, played by Billy Barty, is kicked out of his family’s home because he isn’t a good sea monster since he can’t scare anyone. Upon leaving the family’s cave at Dead Man’s Point, he meets brothers Johnny and Scott on the beach. He has nowhere to go, so the boys take Sigmund to live in their backyard clubhouse.
Most of the episodes revolve around keeping Sigmund hidden from grown-ups as he learns about the human world, keeping Sigmund’s family from taking him back home for some scheme that usually involved making money or getting out of work, or rescuing someone who has been kidnapped by Sigmund’s family. They usually wrapped up with a song by Johnny.
Sigmund and the boys are a good match for each other because they both come from very strange families. Sigmund’s parents are Big Daddy and Sweet Mama. Big Daddy is obviously based on Archie Bunker, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on Sweet Mama. One person from the show says Edith Bunker, which I didn’t see, while someone else says Maude. To me, she appeared to resemble Phyllis Diller. Older brother Slurp’s voice is similar to Jim Nabors, while older brother Blurp appears unique. They have a pet lobster named Prince.
Johnny and Scott have an even odder family situation. Their parents are never around. It’s just accepted with no explanation of where they are or what’s going on. There was one episode when they were going to come home from a trip, but then called to say they weren’t coming because a storm caused their plane to get cancelled. I was baffled why they didn’t reschedule when the storm passed. Their housekeeper Zelda, played by Mary Wickes, raises them. She has a thing for Sheriff Bevans, so he is around a lot. Mrs. Eddels, played by The Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, is their noisy neighbor in three episodes. She sees Sigmund and his family running around, but luckily, no one ever believes her.
Sigmund is goofy, filled with corny puns and pratfalls. It’s fun to watch for Gen-Xers reliving their youth and probably for anyone partaking in recreational vices. I had vague memories of enjoying it when I was a little kid, but back in ’73, there weren’t many entertainment options. I decided to see well the show aged by asking someone from its intended audience.
Since it is a boy’s adventure, I wasn’t surprised that my six-year-old nephew, Sobrino Poco Loco, enjoyed it. He liked Sigmund, but didn’t like Big Mama because she wasn’t funny. He also enjoyed the chase scenes when Blurp and Slurp would get tricked and when they fell down. The show made him think, exhibited in his query as to why the sea monsters didn’t live in the sea. He didn’t like Johnny’s songs because they were boring and not funny.
I was curious as to what the reaction of my 12-year-old niece, Mono Sobrina, would be. She looked at the box and said it looked stupid. I figured the harsh, sophisticated sensibilities of a pre-teenager would be a tough sell. How could puppets and people in costumes compete with CGI? She sat through two episodes without much reaction. As I went to leave, she surprised me by asking if they could keep the discs. She told me that while she found it to be slow, a fair and accurate critique in comparison to the editing and pacing of today’s shows, she liked it.
It’s a testament to the talents of the cast and crew of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters that children still find it entertaining 30 years later.
The extras include commentaries by creator/producer Sid Krofft, who speaks of the show’s origins and its production, and by actors Johnny Whitaker and Scott Kolden, who have a fun time together talking about working on the show and laughing at it. Johnny and Scott are also interviewed, and it is strange seeing the grown-up Johnny as a gray-haired, chubby, 40-something man. Producer/writer Si Rose appears in an interview as well. Johnny’s Video Jukebox collects all the music numbers.