"Fraggle Rock" turns an imaginative puppet show into a very ordinary animated series. The original puppets had more vivid expressions and moved in more interesting ways than their cartoon counterparts. Little survives of the intriguing visual world of the Fraggles, either, and the rather shrill vocal cast has to carry the stories, with results as flat as last week's Fizzies.
"ALF" chronicles in animated form the adventures of Alien Life Form Gordon Shumway before he left the planet Melmac for Earth. The humor of the live-action, prime-time "ALF" is based on his skewed perceptions of human customs. As he's no longer a stranger in a strange land, the new series lacks that premise, and Melmac becomes the site of a weary, pedestrian cartoon sitcom.
"The New Archies" captures neither the doo-wop '50s humor of Bob Montana's original comic strip, nor the bubble gum rock sound that made the Filmation cartoon series a hit from 1968-78. The characters have been shifted to junior high (which means their adult heads are incongruously stuck on adolescent bodies) and given an upscale wardrobe by Guess?/Esprit. Nothing distinguishes "The New Archies" from countless other shows about groups of kids, except its utter lack of humor. Miss Grundy should flunk the writers and artists.
"I'm Telling" is a live-action quiz show that combines elements from "The Newlywed Game" and "Kids Say the Darndest Things." Sibling teams try to match answers to leading questions such as "What does your brother do at the table that drives your mom crazy?" The stories about burping, bad manners and undone homework seem more likely to appeal to adults than children.
And so another kidvid season begins. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes: "All cartoons flow to the screen, and yet the screen is not full. . . ." With any luck, next year's shows will be a little better--and on time.