Each episode began and ended with a silent comedy vignette which played as the secret word was given. The secret word had something to do with the episode about to be shown and the silent sketches also tied in with the theme. At the end of the episode a code was given which fans were supposed to use to decipher the secret word for the following weekís story, although as far as we know no decoders were ever produced or sent out to fulfill this fun idea.
The episodes themselves were all quite different but there were running jokes which followed a distinct pattern. P.T. would narrate an introduction directly to the audience (his character constantly broke the fourth wall to talk directly to the viewing audience), usually about something strange occurring around town, and then they would anticipate either the arrival of "the girl" or the ringing of the turquoise telephone, which would get them started on the case. (Although in one episode the turquoise telephone was called the Ďblazing blasť red phoneí instead.) The girl would enter and usually explain the problem, and she would either fall for one of the guys or one of the guys would fall for her.
At this point the Kids were often called upon to explain their name, to which they would stand at attention and recite, "The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless!" then do a series of "Ta-dahs" (in the same style as the Three Stooges "Hello!" introduction) usually in a specific order: Doc, Doomsday, Bugs and P.T., who always added a musical flourish on the end. Inevitably their introduction to the girl often led to one of the Kids singing the short version of the song (one song was featured in each episode in first a short version then a long version . . . the first episode was the only one to have the song played three times during the show.)
Another common device to advance the plot was that someone would inadvertently hit the top of the little television set sitting on the C.A.P.E.R. Room desk, which turned it on. More often than not the Klinsinger report would be playing, and Klinsinger would be doing a story related to the case at hand or interviewing someone involved in said case. Klinsingerís initial take on almost every story is that whatever is happening is bogus, mere hearsay or an outright hoax, but by the end of the episode when heís forced to face the threat head on he turns into a sniveling, cowardly wreck, calling for his mommy (whom he still lives with.)
Klinsinger also likes to extol the virtues of healthy eating. Considering that so much of Saturday morning television tried to work good values into their programming itís funny they would give the healthy eating doctrine to the one character kids were the least likely to listen to! Thankfully, C.A.P.E.R. really didnít go out of its way to instill life lessons in its viewers. Instead they left their characters to do whatís good and right in a more natural way without any annoying preaching. For example, they sometimes referred to a "C.A.P.E.R. Code," which was apparently a code of honor which they all agreed to adhere to in respect to the law and serving the public.Every crime fighter needs a vehicle. The Scooby Doo gang had The Mystery Machine. Hong Kong Phooey had the Phooeymobile. And The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. had The Big Bologna. The yellow (in the first two episodes filmed it was blue) delivery-style van with a giant bologna in a bun on top and relief art of things like mustard on the side, not unlike Dr. Whoís The Tardis, was somehow much larger inside than appeared on the outside (this wasnít an intended scientific wonder, itís just the set for the interior of the vehicle pretty much had to be larger than the van itself!) It's interesting to note that while the Kids called it "The Big Boloney," the older characters typically used the traditional pronunciation of the word and actually said, "Bologna."
The Big Bologna included a lot of equipment which the Kids could use to help them in their search for the bad guys, including a large C.A.P.E.R. Band radio set, a telephone, periscope and television. P.T.'s bike was stored on a bike rack at the front of the vehicle.
However their most important and useful tool was their radar detecting shark, Mr. Featherstone, who lived in a tank in the vehicle. He helped the Kids with directions and could also locate certain objects. With the enormous popularity of the movie Jaws in 1975, sharks were all the rage, and so why not have a shark in the show? Mr. Featherstone was portrayed by a puppet and would pop up out of his tank, sometimes accidentally scaring the girl, and speak in a mumbling series of noises which somehow all the Kids seemed to understand perfectly. It appeared to be a running joke that whenever Mr. Featherstone murmured a direction it always turned out to be, "Turn left at the next corner!"
The Big Bologna also contained Docís computer, which either switched from being in the C.A.P.E.R. Room to the Big Bologna or was present in both places. In one of the earliest episodes the computer even had a name, Finger, and in that instance it seemed to have a mind of its own, showing an interest in the girl! The Kidsí other equipment included their C.A.P.E.R. Band radios, which were basically walkie talkies, their secret C.A.P.E.R. rope cutters and their C.A.P.E.R. rings . . . the function of the rings, as well as whether or not they all wore them all the time, seemed to change as needed. In one episode, Doc checks his C.A.P.E.R. ring to work out how far they have to go. Then in another episode, P.T.ís ring vibrates to indicate something is wrong.
In several episodes, references are made to the Krelvin Building, which someone is always quick to point out is "the tallest building in the world with no elevators." As you might have guessed, the Kids are called to the building on more than one occasion and their business always seems to take them to the top floor or roof, which gives them ample excuse to run up and down even more stairs!
Another running joke is the strange food the Kids seem to delight in. Pre-dating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, their particular favorite appears to be pizza but with a bizarre variety of unorthodox toppings. In one episode, Doomsday goes out to buy them pizzas with toppings like hot fudge, orange marmalade, artichoke and chopped liver. Doomsdayís voracious appetite is another running joke, and heís almost always either seen eating, making something to eat or talking about getting something to eat. In early episodes it was implied that Doomsday might have been named so because he believed himself to be cursed, but this did not play out much in the rest of the series.
Another semi-regular bit was Docís ability to charm the ladies. In the same vein as Davy Jonesí eyes sparkling whenever he falls in love on The Monkees, when Doc smiled at a girl she would hear bells ringing, when he took her hand she heard a thousand violins and when he stared at her she'd hear thundering hoof beats (quite literally!) Doc remained strangely unaware of this power, though. As an intellectual, he was usually very serious and aloof, while the other Kids were more apt to be silly and fun-loving. So when Doc did come out with a bit of sarcastic levity it wasnít unusual for someone to say, "Youíre kidding!" to which Doc would reply, "I try from time to time."
By far the most memorable running joke of the series was Bugsí bizarre response any time anyone happened to utter the word "banana" (which, of course, happened in practically every episode.) Upon hearing the word, Bugs dissolved into a ranting, maniacal madman, screaming and attacking everything in sight. He would then suddenly snap out of it and ask, "Whatís happening?" to which everyone replied, "Not much." Too often the word was said right when Bugs had called upon his super strength, rendering him unable to use his abilities to save them from danger. Another running joke involving Bugs was his being called upon to do the jobs no one else wants to do. This was usually set up by someone saying something like, "What we really need now is someone with the brains of a cave man and the brute strength of an ape," or, "an unkind, brainless animal," to which Bugs readily volunteered, sometimes with enthusiasm and sometimes with calm dignity, knowing he was going to get stuck doing it anyway. It should be noted that jokes to current popular culture were common in the series as well, and one such joke was that any time Bugs was seen running super-fast the film was slowed down so that he is seen running in slow motion, a direct parody of The Six Million Dollar Man.
The C.A.P.E.R. Kids were called upon to battle an interesting variety of villains, including the Terrible Tollman, The Post Monster General and even invading alien frankfurters! Oddly enough, none of the villains in the series seemed to possess any particular super powers, although they sometimes had a special talent or skill, like impersonating movie stars or baking explosive pastries. Often the villains were comical and never in the series were any injured or killed. Violence was simply not a part of this show. In some episodes the villains were reformed or forgiven, in others they were defeated. The Kids had no arch-enemy or super-villain they ever had to contend with, which could have been interesting to see if the series had lasted more than one season.
Itís unclear why the show didnít last longer. All the elements were there for a true hit. But somehow the series seemed to get lost amongst the NBC schedule, which changed suddenly after several months, yanking the show and leaving fans confused and bewildered. And its eventual return in the spring did little to ensure its longevity. Itís clear that fans connected with and liked these characters and the premise of the show, so itís a real shame that C.A.P.E.R. didnít get the chance to continue and grow into a larger franchise which perhaps would have warranted its long-overdue release on video or DVD.
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