Forgotten Shows of My Nonage #15: Jonny Quest
Some (those my age and a little bit older, as well as lovers of nostalgic reruns) may protest that this show isn’t forgotten at all, but I assure you, I’ve talked to several people younger than myself who’ve never heard of it. Jonny Quest was a serial-style animated adventure series produced by Hanna-Barbera for ABC for the 1964-65 season (I watched it in reruns in the early 70s with my weekly dose of Saturday morning cartoons).
The show followed the adventures of young Jonny and his adopted brother, the Calcutta orphan Hadji as they go around the world with their dad Dr. Quest (“one of the top three scientists in the world”) and his pilot/ bodyguard cohort Race Bannon (and their dog Bandit). The missions are usually scientific (like the Professor in Gilligan’s Island, Dr. Quest is apparently an expert in every field) but generally wind up culminating in mysteries caused by James Bond style super-villains. Dr. Quest had a strong appeal because he resembled G.I. Joe (as a kid I’m certain I got the two confused.) While Dr. Quest can hold his own in a fight, like all fathers in adventure stories he is somewhat hampered in his ability to act because he’s got two young boys to look after. That’s why all family adventure stories need a hired gun along, a hot-headed younger man to take the bigger risks. Lost in Space had Don West; Jonny Quest had Race Bannon. But of course the boys could look after themselves. Jonny could do judo, scuba dive, and handle fire arms. Hadji had Dr. Strange-like mystical skills: levitation, snake charming and so forth. And Bandit is the comic relief…very much a template for the later Scooby Doo in the eponymous cartoon.
Now: you can say Hadji is a stereotype–and he is. Yet it seems to me a baby step toward progress to have him be part of the family. It’s very Kennedy-Johnson era. The gang looks pretty groovy, right? Jonny with his black turtleneck, Hadji with his Nehru jacket, and Race wearing one of those civil-war style military tunics I associate it with 60s rock groups. They’re practically dressed like the Beatles! (Even if Dr. Quest seems to be dressed for the infamous “Butcher Cover”).
Here’s the show intro and credits: