The Pop Culture League Challenge this week is a simple one: Top 10! I immediately started thinking of what I could rank. Transformers? Maybe, but I couldn’t narrow it to ten, in all likelihood. Godzilla movies? An intriguing thought, but I already have another post brewing regarding the King of Monsters. Maybe something about comic book superheroes? Again, same problem as Transformers: where do I start?
And then it occurred to me, why not discuss a franchise that blends my love for robots, actors in suits destroying model cities, and super heroes? Power Rangers is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I loved it from the first time I saw it way back in 1993, and have watched it ever since. I haven’t seen every single episode of every season, but I’ve seen the lion Zord’s share of them, for sure. I love the toys as well; at one point, we (me and my boys) had all but five American release Megazords. My Power Rangers toy buying has slowed since my kids are nearly fully grown now, but I still try to stay current. Someday, I hope to have grandkids, and they will need all of these toys, you see…
So, without further delay, here are my choices for the Top 10 seasons of Power Rangers!
#10 – Mystic Force
When I first saw the suits for this season, I thought wow, capes! It’s like superheroes! Next, I saw the Megazord with the wizard hat, and thought nope, that won’t work. Then I actually watched the show, and it turned out fine. The magic themes were a total Harry Potter ripoff, but I like Harry Potter, so it was cool. Mashing spells and magic formulas up with PR elements was a good fit. This show also had one of the best bad guys ever: Koragg, the Knight Wolf, who turned into a centaur Megazord!
#9 – Lost Galaxy
The first totally new set of Power Rangers, and also the biggest budget for any season ever. The big draw here, for us, was the Magna Defender. His costume was awesome, his anti-hero attitude was unique, and he could grow to huge size and drive his bull-shaped Megazord. My son dressed up as Magna Defender for Halloween, and later wore the suit out from playing in it. Another fun memory was the long series of new episodes that aired on weekdays during the fall. Coming home after school and watching new episodes of Power Rangers together with my kindergartner curled up next to me was wonderful.
#8 – Dino (Super) Charge
Power Rangers had been in a long term slump before this came out. The two series preceding it, Samurai and Mega Force, were both two years long, and also terrible. Then this season, based on the classic dinosaur theme, appeared and made up for six years of bad shows. The acting is much better than the norm, and it’s a large Ranger team which I always enjoy. The only negative is the Megazords, which have a sort of superdeformed look I don’t particularly care for. However, there are tons of them, and they are all prehistoric creatures, so it’s hard to complain!
#7 – Lightspeed Rescue
Many fans will disagree with me, but I really liked this season. The Megazords are among the best toys the line has ever seen, with tons of interactivity and play value. The Supertrain Megazord, especially, looked fantastic, and it was gigantic, too. The sixth ranger for this season, Ryan, the Titanium Ranger, was the first American-only Ranger ever, and his story arc was interesting. The demonic villains were quite creepy, almost too scary for my kiddos at certain points in their development. I loved the season-long interplay between Green Ranger Joel and his crush, Miss Fairweather.
#6 – Jungle Fury
Too many Zords? Maybe, but who cares when each one is totally cool? We enjoyed this show so much I ended up importing all the major toys from Japan just to have them in the proper scale. That may seem silly to some, but when daddy loves giant robots and the kids show those puppy dog eyes, well… I’m a sucker. The characters were fun, especially the mentor and eventual Purple Ranger, RJ. The best part, though, was the set of three new Rangers created just for the American market: Shark, Elephant, and Bat Rangers! Amazing villains, too. Not much to complain about with this one!
#5 – MMPR Season 2
In college, I worked at an after-school program. When Power Rangers began airing, it immediately became a “drop everything and watch” activity. I enjoyed the show with 30 or so kids every day and thought “wow, it’s like real life Voltron, but with dinosaurs!” I was hooked. The formula had gotten a bit stale towards the end of season 1, but then the new season came out and changed everything. New Zords! New villains! Tommy lost his powers, then regained them, becoming a new Ranger color in the process! The Thunder Megazord is one of my favorites, to this day. This season set the bar high for the rest of the series to follow.
#4 – SPD
My sons were 4 and 11 when this came out, so both of them were totally into it, and as a dad, that meant I was totally into it too! This may be the best cast, top to bottom, of any season. We particularly loved the hilarious Green Ranger, Bridge. There was a uniformity to the design of the Megazords that looked great and was quite appropriate for the tech police theme. This season also has my favorite Ranger of all time, the Shadow Ranger. His costume was totally sweet, all steel blue and black. He had the best fight scene in PR history, where he took out 100 minions in one minute. Topping it all off, he was a dog-headed alien. What more needs to be said?
#3 – In Space
This series was the one airing when I started dating my wife-to-be and her 3 year old son. Introducing him to the show is one of my fondest memories. This was the end of the continuity heavy Zordon era, and it went out in style. The “evil Ranger” theme is one that is oft repeated, but it was never handled as well as with the Psycho Rangers. The spaceship themed Megazords were slick, and truly stood out compared to their predecessors, which were mostly animal based. One of the best PR villains, Astronema, tops it all off, making this season stand up well against the best the series has to offer.
#2 – Dino Thunder
The series makes a triumphant return to its prehistoric roots, and it was wonderful. Fan favorite former Ranger Tommy came back as the series mentor. When he finally suited up again as the Black Ranger… it was goosebumps all over. The Zords were fantastic, probably the best animal-based forms across the whole series. Zeltrax, Elsa, and Mesogog were menacing villains, very fun to watch. Additionally, the two lead male Rangers were named Connor and Ethan; these are my youngest son’s first and middle names. The episode “Fighting Spirit”, where Tommy has a vision in which he fights his previous alter egos, is a delight. I also enjoyed the episode where the Rangers watch a “Japanese ripoff” of their own exploits. Deliciously meta!
#1 – Time Force
This one stands head and shoulders above the rest. A team of police from the future travel back in time to hunt down an escaped mutant terrorist. The best Pink Ranger ever, Jen, is the team leader, and she is awesome. There’s an intriguing season long romantic subplot between Jen and Wes, the modern-times Red Ranger, who looks suspiciously like her dead boyfriend from the future. Time travel wasn’t emphasized as much as I would like, but there are still some “fix the timeline” shenanigans. The Quantum Ranger (who is also Red! Two Red Rangers? Sweet!) was a particularly interesting sixth ranger, far more mercenary than you’d expect from a kids’ show. He also piloted a giant silver and red Tyrannosaurus, which is one of the best Zords ever. The Time Force Megazord was a quadruple-changer, extremely unusual, having two different humanoid robot forms and a giant jet mode as well as the individual ships. This series is more what I would now call “CW style”, but this totally worked. Time Force remains unsurpassed among Power Rangers seasons.
Here are some highlights from the other Top 10 Lists, check them all out at Cool & Collected:
We recently cut the cable again, and have been limited to over the air TV viewing. My favorite channels are the retro stations that show only classic stuff. I’ve been enjoying old Tonight Show reruns, and it brings back so many good memories watching Johnny Carson do his thing. As a challenge, I like to try and guess the airdate based on the guests appearing. Over the weekend, I watched an episode with Ann-Margret and Joan Rivers, originally aired on December 13, 1978. (I was off a few years on my guess.)
The most memorable part of this particular show wasn’t the monologue, or Joan Rivers’ crude humor, not even Johnny’s flirtatious interview with Ann-Margret. It was a short segment where Johnny read kids’ letters to Santa. These were actually written and sent to the Post Office by kids in 1978. Johnny pointed out funny things the kids wrote before ending the segment with a call for donations to needy children. It was so incredible to hearing what toys kids wanted back in 1978. I immediately started looking around on the web for information on these toys. It was a fun little research project, and I thought I’d share what I found here. If you are at all interested in vintage toys, or have nostalgia for the time, you should check out the links below. Hopefully at least some of these fantastic toys made it into the hands of those kids almost four decades ago…
Though Johnny didn’t say exactly which of the many Captain America toys was requested, odds are it was a Mego. These were the gold standard for dolls, I mean, action figures, back in the 70s. I don’t recall having Steve Rogers in Mego form, but I did have Spidey. I whirled the wall crawler around our house on a length of yarn, endangering many of my mom’s breakables.
This request was unusual, and the phrase refers to both a book and a movie based on it. I’m guessing the book was what this particular kiddo was wishing for. The movie (narrated by Rod Serling, no less!) is fully available on YouTube at the link above. I watched a half hour or so, and it brought back memories of reading every book on Ufology in the school and local library when I was young. I’m certain I would have gotten along well with the kid who requested this one.
I vaguely recall seeing ads for this toy in between the story pages of my aunt’s collection of comic books. A helicopter may seem like a strange choice of vehicle, since Spidey practically flies around on his webs anyway. I suppose a copter could be useful for oversea travel, or perhaps in the skyscraper-less suburbs. The copter is mentioned at the end of an old commercial for “Energized” Spider-Man, a toy that climbs up a string in realistic fashion. The clip is on Youtube and definitely worth a view.
Play-Doh is still, to this day, a toy aisle staple. Making things out of brightly colored modeling compound is lots of fun! And there’s nothing quite like the smell of a freshly opened can of Play-Doh, is there? I couldn’t recall offhand what a Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop was, but after watching the commercial (link above), I distinctly remembered it. I could spend a few hours shaving green Play-Doh off a plastic guy’s face, couldn’t you?
Unsurprisingly, Star Wars toys were big in 1978, and were mentioned in several of the kids’ wish lists. The most common request was for Star Wars action figures, and I am sure it was a rare tree, indeed, that was lacking a Star Wars figure that year. Two other, less well-known toys were also mentioned. One was the Star Wars Give-A-Show projector. Before the age of the VCR, this was the best way to see parts of your favorite movie in your own home. If you were on the go, the handheld Kenner Movie Viewer had a Star Wars cartridge available. I would have loved either, or both! (Please, please both.)
I don’t have a particular affinity for Hot Wheels or remote control cars today. But cars and toys based on them are very appealing to kids, especially when they are fast and/or sporty looking. I didn’t have the Sizzlers Nightmare Alley race car track, but my brother and I did race each other on a similar set. To be honest, I had more fun going so fast around corners that my car flew off the track.
The Micronauts! As as kid, I read the comic based on the toyline. I loved Acroyear! As an adult, I recognize that the Japanese toyline (Microman) gave birth to some of the best Transformers toys later on. I believe I had a few Micronauts toys as a kid, but sadly none remain in my collection. Taking a look at this Battle Cruiser, though, makes me want to get one, and fill it with all sorts of interchangeable cyborg goodness. And Acroyear would look cool on my robot shelf…
I was unfamiliar with this toy, but after learning about it I totally want one! It’s a futuristic target shooting set. A sweet white spacegun that would look right at home on Buck Rogers shoots a burst of light. The target has a rotating platform full of rockets on top of it. If you hit the target, a rocket shoots up into the air, and a new one rotates into place. I can only imagine how cool it would have been to shoot lasers at invading rockets in my own back yard. It really doesn’t get much better than that as a kid in the late 70s, does it?