Our post for the 1960 episodes of The Mr. Magoo Show covered the series' origins, format, characters, and many deficiencies, so those topics will not be repeated here as we deal with the last 12 episodes, which may have aired in 1961 but for which there is no definitive schedule, in part because it was a syndicated series whose airtime was dictated by each station that carried it. Unsurprisingly, the episodes do not improve in quality over the course of the episodes as the producers and writers struggle to come up with original stories and resort to rehashing already used plots and gags and trying to latch on to any other popular cartoon or topic in an effort to boost viewership. One such topic is TV talent shows (a la Arthur Godfrey), which are spoofed in Episode 15's "Top the Music" short in which Presley pushes Waldo into lip-syncing to a record player in an attempt to beat out weekly winner Squirrely Evans and His Magic Tuba. But Evans is on to their game and destroys the record player, forcing Waldo to sing in his natural voice, which it turns out is good enough to win the contest. However, afterward Presley wonders what they will do with all the ridiculous prizes they have won, including an aircraft carrier, the Statue of Liberty, and an outer space rocket. This is humor applied with a sledgehammer.
"Safety Magoo" attempts to lampoon the advertising industry by showing a board room of identically dressed ad executives launching a safety campaign with Magoo randomly chosen as the spokesperson. What could go wrong? The series also pokes fun at TV exercise pitchmen, a la Jack LaLanne, in both "Slim Trim Magoo" and "Muscles Magoo." If a joke doesn't work the first time, repeating it only makes it funnier, it would seem.
The series takes a dig at both TV's most popular western Gunsmoke and its best cartoon series The Bullwinkle Show in "Marshal Magoo" from Episode 18. Marshal Matt Magoo, decked out all in white, is being driven in a stagecoach to Ford City (as opposed to Matt Dillon's Dodge City) when the stagecoach is hijacked by an unnamed outlaw clearly based on Boris Badenov (and voiced by Paul Frees), who periodically turns to the narrator and tells him he talks too much before firing his pistol at the camera. Breaking the fourth wall was a regular feature on The Bullwinkle Show which made a habit of spoofing the artificiality of television, even showing Rocky and Bullwinkle sitting around the film set between takes in one episode, but this tactic was rarely used on Magoo, making the Badenov appropriation more obvious. Also featured in this short are a group of Indians discussing plans on a roll-up presentation screen, which they hide every time the narrator begins talking about them. In the end we learn that they are diagramming a football play, not planning an attack on the stagecoach, the sort of joke one would expect on an episode of Bullwinkle.
The producers and writers try exploiting one of the UPA studio's more popular past hits in Episode 24's "Magoo Meets McBoing Boing," in which Magoo is called on to babysit for the baby Gerald McCloy who speaks in sound effects rather than words. In this episode Magoo naturally mixes up the baby with the family dog and tucks the latter into bed while putting the baby outside for the evening. The original McBoing Boing short won an Oscar in 1950 and several successful shorts followed thereafter, but an attempt by UPA to turn it into a TV series for the 1956-57 season proved too expensive to produce and was canceled after 3 months.
But perhaps the most bizarre short on The Mr. Magoo Show was its abuse of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale in "Magoo and the Beanstalk" from Episode 21. In this cartoon Magoo apparently plants some magic beans in his garden and up sprouts a magic beanstalk that climbs into the clouds, only Magoo thinks that his neighbor Smedley has stolen all his beans from the beanstalk, so he climbs up to confront him. In the clouds he meets Alfred, the son of Fee Fi and Fo Fum who tangled with the original Jack, who is now in danger of losing his castle because he has had no one to spar with and bring him fame and fortune like his parents. His encounter with Magoo doesn't improve his fortune, and in the end his castle is put up for sale, but when the narrator asks him if he isn't worried about his future, the young giant, seen reading a Mad magazine, says "Why, me worry?" and lowers the magazine to reveal that he is Alfred E. Newman. Even comics historian Jerry Beck, who provides DVD commentary for this episode, fails to provide an explanation for this strange trick ending.
Equally puzzling is the fate of houseboy Charlie in Shout! Factory's DVD release. As we noted in our post on the 1960 episodes, Charlie's stereotypical characterization was vociferously panned when the series was rerun in syndication in the 1980s, prompting UPA to overdub his voice (but not change his physical appearance) to be less offensive. The DVD release seems to suggest that this overdubbing was not done to all 26 episodes because through the first 16 episodes we hear the original racially offensive version of Charlie, but we get the overdubbed version (except for "Magoo and the Medium" in Episode 23 in which he has only a couple of lines) for the remaining 10 episodes. And the overdubbed Charlie, while not offensive, is jarring because of its flat delivery in the midst of all the other exaggerated cartoon voices. It's as if someone walked in off the street and read the lines in one take rather than having them delivered by a professional voice actor. All of Charlie's punch lines are drained of any humor they might have registered by the deadpan delivery.
Elsewhere, Magoo borrows heavily from popular culture to lessen the boredom of seeing Magoo stumble through one catastrophe after another. Magoo wanders into Dr. Sam Frankenstein's castle in "Magoo Meets Frankenstein" in Episode 21, and he imagines himself back in old England in "Robin Hood Magoo" in Episode 24. But more entertaining are when Magoo disappears altogether for a stretch in "Magoo's Western Exposure" from Episode 23 when Magoo turns on the TV instead of the air conditioner and falls asleep during an episode of the Lone Ranger knock-off The Masked Hombre, or when he attempts to tell Charlie the story of Cyrano de Bergerac in "Cyrano Magoo" from Episode 25. These stories within the story more nearly approach the humor of Bullwinkle's "Fractured Fairy Tales" in retelling classic plots with unexpected twists, and they work much better than the rest of the program because they aren't burdened with Magoo's worn-out schtick.
It's ironic that the last view of Magoo we get in this series has him in jail, just like the characters in the finale of Seinfeld, because the two series couldn't be farther apart in the number of laughs they produced.
For the biographies of Jim Backus and Jerry Hausner, see the 1960 post on The Mr. Magoo Show.