He-Man Airdates And You: A Big WTF?! From A Fan

.....You know, sometimes it doesn't pay to give a damn. And when it comes to being a fan of Filmation, giving a damn actually costs money.
.....The history of my version of the airing order (and premiere date) of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe requires some explanation. First off, fan circles in this regard-not very helpful. Most simply tack on "Diamond Ray of Disappearance" (which has the production code, MU#66004, or MU4 on the cels and storyboards, implying that it was the fourth episode produced) in front of a direct list of the series, in production order. The thing is, there are big problems in the production order: "The Return of Orko's Uncle" has a lower production code (MU23) than the episode that precedes it, "Orko's Favorite Uncle" (MU27). Furthermore, given what I know about G.I. Joe, where the first five episodes of Season 1 were produced well into the first season, and the two parters have non-sequential production orders ("Worlds Without End", the first Joe ep reviewed here, has production codes of 600-27 and 600-34 for Parts I and II, respectively), I know better than to trust the production order of '80s cartoons.
.....And there's this little bit of Filmation history.
.....For those of you who didn't click the link (or, for whatever reason, access the web in a text-only form), I just linked to a document by She-Ra writer J. Michael Straczynski written in the middle of the first season that synopsizes the first 49 episodes by production code. And the linked page, page 19, refers to PP#66037, "Freeze Out", which didn't get produced, and the number was reassigned (the episode with that number is a personal favorite, "The Anxious Apprentice", which features not only the awesome and underused Castaspella, but her apprentice, Ariel).
.....Oh, fuck.
.....So, for whatever reason, Filmation reassigned production numbers when an episode fell through (unlike Sunbow, which moved on-there is no episode with the production code 600-03 on G.I. Joe). Well, that explains the snafu with the first two episodes guest-starring Montork. It also serves to expose a greater issue with He-Man and She-Ra, as the first season of He-Man in particular has some inconsistencies in its presentation, as originally reported at he-man.org and/or the old He-Man and She-Ra Episode Review Website by James Eatock. (Webmaster's Note: When engaging in massive amounts of angry fanwankery, be sure to LIST YOUR SOURCES. That way, you avoid having to insert these sorts of notes in year-old pages because you fucked up and forgot to credit everyone. *wipes egg off face*) The end credits have many changes, from the change to the hard-to-see-on-broadcast-TV "Blue N" Filmation logo to the addition of Erika Scheimer's name in the credits, and even a few misspellings of Linda Gary's last name, it's fairly easy to tell in general terms what order the episodes were readied for broadcast. These "batches" are:

First Batch
Blue N Logo/No Erika Scheimer/ "Eric" Gunden

Appeared In:

MU3 - "Disappearing Act"
MU4 - "Diamond Ray of Disappearance"
MU5 - "She-Demon of Phantos"
MU6 - "Teela's Quest"
MU7 - "The Curse of the Spellstone"
MU8 - "The Time Corridor"
MU9 - "The Dragon Invasion"
MU10 - "A Friend in Need"
MU12 - "Evil-Lyn's Plot"
MU13 - "Like Father, Like Daughter"
MU14 - "Colossor Awakes"
MU16 - "Reign of the Monster"
MU18 - "Creatures From The Tar Swamp"
MU20 - "Dawn of Dragoon"
MU22 - "Song of Celice"
MU29 - "Prince Adam No More"

.....For the record, these episodes include 3 episodes directed by Lou Zukor ("Diamond Ray", "Disappearing Act", "The Time Corridor") 4 by Gwen Wetzler ("She-Demon of Phantos", "The Dragon Invasion", "Song of Celice", "Prince Adam No More") 2 by Marsh Lamore ("Teela's Quest", "Creatures From the Tar Swamp"), 3 by Ed Friedman ("Curse of the Spellstone", "A Friend in Need", "Dawn of Dragoon"), 3 by Lou Kachivas ("Evil-Lyn's Plot", "Like Father, Like Daughter", "Colossor Awakes"), and 1 by Steve Clark ("Reign of the Monster")-pretty much an even distribution (as Steve Clark was primarily an animator in Season 1, filling in from time to time as a director). Also, "Eric Gunden", normally spelled as "Erik Gunden", was Lou Scheimer's official pseudonym for his voice acting efforts.

Second Batch
Blue N/Larger Font/Erika Scheimer/Linda "Gray"/Haim "Sabin"

Appeared In:

MU17 - "Daimar the Demon"
MU34 - "The Dragon's Gift"

.....The rarest variation of all, with Hal Sutherland's only turn in the director's chair during Filmation's syndicated era, and in one other episode (the DVD version of "Daimar", in fact, ends with the Yellow N Filmation logo, an artifact of later re-runs). Erika Scheimer receives credit for the first time, anticipating the greater role she would have in the future (where she graduated to the role of recording director), and the cast as a whole receives much more attention, with a much larger font, and earlier place in the credits (which would remain the status quo for the rest of the series). The great music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy (Erika Lane, a pastiche of Lou Scheimer's children, the well-known Erika and her brother, Lane, whose main contribution for Filmation was some voice acting in the '70s as a child, was a common move at the time designed to allow the animation studios to own their background music) also receives a greater credit. However, the misspellings of Linda Gary's and Haim Saban's last names would stick for much of the first season.

Third Batch
Yellow N/Linda "Gray"/Haim "Sabin"

Appeared In:

MU1 - "The Cosmic Comet"
MU2 - "The Shaping Staff"
MU11 - "Masks of Power"
MU15 - "A Beastly Sideshow"
MU19 - "Quest for He-man"
MU23 - "The Return of Orko's Uncle"
MU24 - "Wizard of Stone Mountain"
MU26 - "Ordeal in the Darklands"
MU27 - "Orko's Favorite Uncle"
MU28 - "The Defection"
MU21 - "The Royal Cousin"
MU30 - "The Taking of Grayskull"
MU31 - "A Tale of Two Cities"
MU33 - "The Starchild"
MU35 - "The Sleepers Awaken"
MU36 - "The Search"
MU37 - "It's Not My Fault"
MU38 - "Valley of Power"
MU39 - "Trouble in Arcadia"
MU42 - "Double Edged Sword"
MU43 - "The Mystery of Man-E-Faces"
MU44 - "The Region of Ice"
MU45 - "Orko's Missing Magic"
MU46 - "Eternal Darkness"
MU47 - "Keeper of the Ancient Ruins"
MU48 - "Return of Evil"
MU49 - "Return of the Gryphon"
MU50 - "Temple of The Sun"
MU51 - "City Beneath the Sea"
MU52 - "Teela's Trial"
MU53 - "Dree Elle's Return"
MU54 - "Game Plan"
MU55 - "Eye of the Beholder"
MU56 - "Quest for the Sword"
MU57 - "Castle of Heroes"
MU59 - "The Witch and The Warrior"
MU60 - "The Return of Granamyr"
MU63 - "The Huntsman"
MU64 - "The Remedy"

.....Here's where the bulk of Season 1 lies, where the end credits are the same as the second "batch" of episodes, just now with the "Yellow N" Filmation logo that would be used by the studio until 1986. Of note are "The Cosmic Comet" and "The Shaping Staff", which either underwent massive production delays, or featured re-assigned production numbers.

Fourth Batch
Yellow N/Linda Gary/Haim "Sabin"

Appeared In:

MU25 - "Evilseed"
MU32 - "Search for the VHO"
MU40 - "House of Shokoti" Part I
MU41 - "House of Shokoti" Part II
MU58 - "The Once and Future Duke"
MU61 - "Pawns of the Game Master"
MU62 - "Golden Disks of Knowledge"
MU65 - "The Heart of A Giant"

.....This final run of episodes in Season 1 features the corrected last name of Linda Gary, but also many oddities from a production standpoint. "The House of Shokoti" had a severely lengthened production history as a result of the extension of the story into two parts in order to make the second part affordable. "Evilseed", "Search for the VHO", and The Once and Future Duke" were all written by freelancers, who, for whatever, reason, never turned in another script for the show after the season (even though all three episodes are very good). "Pawns of the Game Master" appears to have been one of Paul Dini's "banked" He-Man scripts, used early for unknown reasons. And, finally, "Golden Disks of Knowledge" and "The Heart of A Giant" are episodes with teleplays by Season 2 writer (and '80s cartoon fixture) David Wise, the former developed by a freelancer, and the latter a story Robby London had failed to complete before leaving the series.

"1984 Episodes"/Season 2

Appeared In:

MU66 - "The Cat and the Spider"
MU67 - "The Energy Beast"
MU68 - "Day of the Machines"
MU69 - "The Gamesman"
MU70 - "Fisto's Forest"
MU71 - "The Rarest Gift of All"
MU72 - "The Great Books Mystery"
MU74 - "Island of Fear"
MU75 - "To Save Skeletor"
MU76 - "The Ice Age Cometh"
MU77 - "Trouble in Trolla"
MU78 - "Betrayal of Stratos"
MU79 - "Disappearing Dragons"
MU80 - "The Shadow of Skeletor"
MU81 - "The Arena"
MU82 - "Attack from Below"
MU83 - "Into the Abyss"
MU84 - "Fraidy Cat"
MU85 - "The Rainbow Warrior"
MU87 - "Things That Go Bump in the Night"
MU88 - "Three on a Dare"
MU89 - "Just a Little Lie"
MU90 - "One for All"
MU91 - "Jacob and the Widgets"
MU92 - "The Littlest Giant"
MU93 - "Trouble's Middle Name"
MU95 - "A Bird in the Hand"
MU98 - "Search for the Past"
MU99 - "Hunt for He Man"
MU100 - "The Greatest Show on Eternia"
MU101 - "Not so Blind"
MU102 - "Revenge is Never Sweet"
MU103 - "The Good Shall Survive"

.....For whatever reason, the second production order of He-Man is grouped together indiscriminately, regardless of copyright date. Note to everyone: copyrights can't be assigned for a later year than its date of release/publishing/insert your legal term here. So, to put things mildly, these 33 episodes aired in the fall of 1984, likely two or three days a week, with first season episodes airing the other days. (Among the episodes likely to have been pulled from re-runs include "Diamond Ray of Disappearance", "Reign of the Monster", and "Masks of Power", the latter two being excessively rare on the old tape-trading circuit.) It's also at this point that the quotation marks in the on-air episode titles disappear.

"1985 Episodes"/Season 3

Appeared In:

MU73 - "Origin of the Sorceress"
MU86 - "A Trip to Morainia"
MU94 - "Journey to Stone City"
MU96 - "Battlecat"
MU97 - "The Time Wheel"
MU104 - "The Secret of Grayskull"
MU105 - "No Job too Small"
MU106 - "The Bitter Rose"
MU107 - "The Gambler"
MU108 - "Teela's Triumph"
MU109 - "Orko's New Friend"
MU110 - "The Problem With Power"
MU111 - "Double Trouble"
MU112 - "The Eternia Flower"
MU113 - "Happy Birthday Roboto"
MU114 - "Battle of the Dragons"
MU115 - "Time Doesn't Fly"
MU116 - "Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere"
MU117 - "Beauty and the Beast"
MU118 - "Orko's Return"
MU119 - "Visitors From Earth"
MU120 - "Monster on the Mountain"
MU121 - "The Magic Falls"
MU122 - "Search for a Son"
MU123 - "Mistaken Identity"
MU124 - "The Toy Maker"
MU125 - "Bargain With Evil"
MU126 - "Capture the Comet Keeper"
MU127 - "The Ancient Mirror of Avathar"
MU128 - "The Games"
MU129 - "To Save the Creatures"
MU130 - "The Cold Zone"

.....Referred to in Season 2's version of The Greatest Adventures of All, Skeletor's Revenge, these 32 episodes aired in the fall of '85, and the scripts are dated well after those of the second season, and even after the first season of She-Ra! ("Origin of the Sorceress" has an initial cover date of July 31, 1984, while "Into Etheria" has an initial cover date of May 25, 1984.) Clearly, the "1985 episodes of Season 2" were aired in 1985 as the third season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. There are other, more subtle signs of She-Ra in these episodes. The jawbridge in the end credits is the animated one seen as early as "The Dragon Invasion" and even the intro to The Greatest Adventures of All, but used for She-Ra's stock transformation sequence after the "normal" jawbridge piece was apparently lost or destroyed during the production of The Sword of She-Ra and its theatrical counterpart, The Secret of the Sword. Also, cues for She-Ra that were available at the start of that show's production (including a few title card cues), before the re-recording/enhancement of many He-Man cues for The Secret of the Sword, are used in these episodes, especially one action cue that directly quotes the She-Ra theme song! Furthermore, "Origin of the Sorceress" makes overt acknowledgements to the Evil Horde and the Sword of Protection.

.....Got all that? Good. With a few changes ("Diamond Ray", "Teela's Quest", and "Colossor Awakes" as the first three eps; flipping the first two Montork eps and the first two Modulok eps; placing the episodes from Skeletor's Revenge as the first three aired eps of Season 2 (as it helps to solve the twisted history of Whiplash); and placing "The Problem With Power" as the series finale), I surmised a speculative broadcast order whilst the CRW was in a form of development hell (read: I was slacking off). Then, someone placed a broadcast order on Wikipedia. I poked at it, and found it consistent with the batches shown above.
.....And now, that list has changed.
.....Granted, I should have caught the change. The format has been altered, for one thing. And "Colossor" is misspelled as "Colassor". But, I didn't. But, still. The airing order (and air dates) of G.I. Joe have been known for years. Dave Thornton posted them on Quick Kick's Theatre (now the more definitive and professional-looking JoeGuide.com), and they were derived from Matthew Pak's 3 3/4" G.I. Joe Collector Guide - Volume Two: The Television Episodes (and the data, as Dave and I have speculated, likely comes from the Library of Congress, which tracks air dates of TV shows, along with their more worthy pursuits). Hell, She-Ra's airing history is well-known, including the rather depressing second and third seasons (as the final 28 episodes were aired over the course of two TV seasons, with Season 2 getting the pick of the litter).
.....So why in the holy hell aren't the He-Man air dates widely known, and why the fuck does fandom accept an obviously broken production order as the definitive order of the series?
.....Given that this is the same fandom that has accepted PAL-compressed, DVNR'ed, and in the case of "Diamond Ray of Disappearance", edited, episodes, I'm awfully tempted to call the members of said fandom fucking morons, and leave it at that.
.....But, in the interest of minimizing what looks to be a substantially painful pile of negative feedback, I won't. (Besides, I've piled on series whipping boy Rowby Goren on occasion in other forums of discussion, only to find him a thoroughly dependable writer on Filmation's forgotten Ghostbusters cartoon. I'm not about to make the same mistake twice.)
.....The thing is, my searches imply that September 5th may be the UK premiere of He-Man, and not the US one (which, as the cartoon is American in origin, should stand as the definitive anniversary day). The closest estimate is September 26th.
.....God dammit. Seriously, GOD FUCKING DAMMIT!
.....Shit like this is why I'm going gray at the tender age of 30. Seriously. People fucking collect TV Guide, and you can't identify He-Man's TV debut?! TV Guide, which ritualistically gave Debut: blurbs when a show made its premiere, and fandom can't find copies?! This, in a word, is preposterous.
.....Here's the deal: the greater animation community needs to know just when the hell the 130 episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe aired, and in what order. If not because the greater animation community really cares (believe me, they don't; that Filmation logo at the beginning is always enough to turn most of them away), but because it says, "Hey! We care about this!" I've presented some pretty fair proof that the production order isn't indicative of what was produced, or even written, in any sort of chronological order. But, as The X-Files taught us, the truth is out there. The premiere? Well, hell. That one's easy. TV Guide. As I said, it used to give a blurb for a show's first airing, including cartoons. Of course, eBay and I are currently on less than speaking terms, if you catch my drift, so that's out for me. Also out for me is the trip to the Library of Congress presumably needed to research something like the names of episodes aired on a given day. Sure, some of the old tape traders may have piecemeal info, but this little proposal of mine needs authoritative information. Unless your old tape has a promo for that night's local news, or a contemporary ad for a new episode of a network TV show, it's not going to cut it.
.....What I can provide, though, is a place to hash out these ideas and sort out information. All I ask for is proof. Got an ad hyping the debut of He-Man? Scan that puppy in. Got a tape that confirms the air date of an episode? Post the video on YouTube, or e-mail me screen grabs and/or the sound file. Any way you can help, since I can't do it myself. Until then, I'm scrubbing references to He-Man's premiere, and reverting to the speculative episode order.

Back to: Editorials
Main Page
- What's New - Cartoons - Videos - Editorials - FAQ - Credits - Links