Sunday, March 6, 2016

TV Sidekick Blogathon: My Enduring Devotion to Dyna Girl


A few weeks ago I received an invitation to participate in a blogathon, launched by The Classic Film and TV Café, on the topic of classic TV sidekicks. The first character that came to my mind was Dyna Girl, played by Judy Strangis. 



What does that say about me? Maybe we shouldn’t go there.

I could frame this piece within some high-falutin’ analysis of the impact of Saturday morning children’s television on the youth of the 1970s. Or discuss the evolution of live-action programming in timeslots traditionally associated with animation. Or examine Electra Woman and Dyna Girl as a pioneering effort in the superhero genre decades before its current mainstream acceptance.  



All of these would be acceptable justifications for writing about Dyna Girl. But she was probably my first choice because she was just so incredibly hot.

Is that crude? Is that sexist? Does it matter that I’m actually expressing the thoughts of my 12 year-old self? Or should that evidence be thrown out because I still think like my 12 year-old self most of the time?

I make no apologies. Women over 50 still go to Donny Osmond concerts because they remember the first time they heard “Puppy Love.” Their musical tastes have matured since then, but we never fully outgrow our early celebrity crushes. I am 51 years old and I still want to take Judy Strangis out for an ice cream soda.



One also has to admire the pop culture prominence of a Saturday morning series that consists of just eight half-hour episodes, that is still so fondly recalled 40 years later.

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was Sid & Marty Krofft’s spin on the 1960s Batman series. You had a hero and a sidekick with dual identities. ElectraBase was their Batcave. Frank Heflin (wonderfully played by gruff but lovable Norman Alden) was a more technologically adept Alfred. They had a cool car and they fought colorful, outrageous villains with names like the Empress of Evil and The Pharaoh. Dyna Girl’s exclamations of “Electra Wow!” among others were a variation on Robin’s “Holy” this and “Holy” that. 



Dyna Girl was my favorite part of the series. While Deidre Hall as Electra Woman was also beautiful, and wore spandex in a way that could jump-start a young man’s puberty, there was a hesitation around the edges of her performance. Every so often you could tell she really didn’t want to be on such a goofy show.

Not so with Judy Strangis, who embraced the crazy with the full-throttle fervor of someone having the time of her life. To see that commitment at its apex, check out “Ali Baba,” the episode in which Dyna Girl is drugged and turns evil, which in this case manifested itself visually through a change in lipstick shade. As she explores the dark side of the peppy crimefighter, Strangis takes “over the top” to levels that even Krofft shows rarely achieve. 


 Which is not to say she wasn’t a good actress. Prior to her superhero days Strangis was memorable and if possible even more beautiful as earnest high school student Helen Loomis on Room 222. Michael Constantine played the principal on that series, and then popped up in two episodes of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl as a villain called The Sorcerer. I often wondered what the discussions were like between the reunited castmates. They must have taken one look at each other in their respective costumes and thought, “Can you believe this?”

 

Even if they could, I wonder if either of them thought anyone would still be celebrating that silly little show in 2016.

In 1995, when Nick at Nite launched a Krofft marathon under the title “Pufapalooza,” two episodes of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl were featured, elevating the short-lived series to the first echelon of Krofft properties alongside HR Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost.

The concept was revived in a more adult-oriented 2001 pilot starring Markie Post and Anne Stedman. It never went anywhere, but it’s pretty funny and available on YouTube. Another reboot will be out later this year.



I wish them well but I doubt this is the kind of lightning that is easily bottled a second time. There is only one Dyna Girl for me. 

 
The TV Sidekick Blogathon is hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Please check out the rest of the wonderful entries by clicking here.

14 comments:

  1. I remember every sidekick in this blogathon except Dyna Girl--I had to look her up! That made this post a terrific read. I even watched "The Spider Lady" episode on YouTube (I want that car...). And to think that Deidre Hall went on to become one of daytime TV's most famous and best-paid stars! But I agree with you that Judy Strangis seemed more at home in her role and I can definitely see her appeal!

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    1. Wow - thanks for reading and for checking out an episode! I can only imagine what it's like to experience this show for the first time as an adult. :)

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  2. Adorable post about an equally adorable character! While I don't remember watching the series -- I'm about a decade older than you, and female, I very much remember the talented Ms. Strangis from "Room 222".

    What a lot of talent for a kids show! Impressive but then the Kroffts did appreciate the talent in front of the cameras in all their series, no matter how outlandish the premise.

    Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Lisa. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of 'Room 222' was available on DVD? It's one of my favorite shows from any era of television.

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  3. A couple of years ago on the Hallowe'en episode of "General Hospital" two characters (one a child) dressed as ElectraWoman and DynaGirl. The show, as well as its stars, has legs.

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    1. Was it Sam and Emma? I have a vague memory of that as well!

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    2. It was Sabrina and Emma. They were very cute. Robin was being held on Windermere by Faison. He's certainly one of the all-time great kooky villains for a future blogathon.

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  4. I've never seen this show, but now I want to. Of course the images are familiar. Terrific choice and entry!!

    Aurora

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  5. I'm like Citizen Screen - I love it when I get to read about a show that I've not seen before, and it makes me want to learn more. Wonderful choice, and a great entry - as usual!

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  6. Same here -- now I want to watch them! That's the true power of a great classic TV post!

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  7. My local station rotated a lot of the Kroft classics on weekday afternoons. I always looked forward to Electra Woman and Dyna Girl for obvious reasons. Dr. Shrinker and friends just weren't as appealing to me. :)

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  8. I had the Krofft Supershow lunchbox in 6th grade. I'll never forget Dyna Girl (or Elektra Woman). What I did briefly forget was Pufapalooza--which now that you mentioned it--I did watch! Great essay--thanks for writing it :)

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  9. Judy Strangis was, and is, absolutely adorable. Back in the day, she was so adorable that her two older brothers would pick her up after work just to make sure she stayed, uh, adorable. One of her Room 222 castmates told me, a long time ago, that her brothers were a little intimidating.

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