After yesterday’s trip down memory lane with a look at hockey toys from the 80s, we’ve decided to keep the nostalgia train going today with a look back at the 1991 classic, ProStars. According to Wikipedia, the show aired on NBC from September 14th until December 7th of ’91. So it looks like, just like the situation with the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, NBC is once again responsible for killing a groundbreaking program before it really got the chance to become a true classic television institution.
You may remember a Pro Stars cereal as well which had Wayne Gretzky on the box. Wikipedia claims the cereal was produced in conjunction with the show, but we remember it coming out a few years earlier. Regardless, thanks to Toonaholic1 on YouTube, the first episode of ProStars is online. We remember watching this show on Saturday mornings in our youth and thinking it was one of the greatest things in the world. However, the innocent eyes of a child often place great value in terrible ideas and horrible programming. Today we’re going to watch the first episode in its entirety and discover if a show where Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson fight crime using their sporting abilities and crazy gadgets really is as amazing as it sounds.
The show starts off with a weak homage to We Will Rock You that explains just how awesome our three heroes are. It is during this intro where we find out that Jordan, Jackson and Gretzky apparently live in gym lockers. We also learn about the characters special shoes. When Jordan presses a button on his shoes, fire shoots out of the bottom and he can fly. We’re not sure why Nike never produced these shoes for the mass market. Gretzky’s rollerblade shoes also feature a fire button. In his case the fire propels him forward at incredible speed. He also is able to shoot a hockey puck that turns into a boomerang. Jackson swings trees and destroys machinery. He does not seem to have any special shoes. Strike one against Bo.
It is during the intro where we find out that “It’s all about helping kids” thanks to a Michael Jordan declaration.
We are then treated to a look at the athletes behind the heroes. Bo Jackson tells us that “Bo knows cartoons.” Michael Jordan comforts us when he says “Don’t worry, ProStars are on the way!” Wayne Gretzky says “Yeah!” and points at the camera. You tell ‘em Wayne!
We then get a split screen of Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson discussing today’s episode. They tell us that gangs are bad and that kids should instead save their money for fishing. It ends with “Bo knows gang busting” and we start to realize why this show didn’t last long.
Back at the ProStars gym, Michael Jordan is watching a VHS tape from Australia. Some kid tells him that Gargantus and his gang are destroying the Outback and terrifying kangaroos. The kid’s brother has “gone bonkers” and he thinks joining the gang would be cool. Naturally this is a case for Michael Jordan!
Bo knows how to run a gimmick into the ground and he exclaims that “Bo knows bad guys!” He wants to head off and fight the gang right now. Michael Jordan, who is apparently a huge nerd, proclaims that “some appropriate gadgetry” will help “counteract the numerical superiority” the team is faced with. Wayne Gretzky is afraid of getting “stomped.”
So now we’ve learned what the characters are like. Bo Jackson is angry and violent and he loves shouting slogans. Michael Jordan talks like a math geek and Wayne Gretzky is pretty much a giant, stupid wuss.
At this point in the show someone’s Jewish mother walks in and gives the team a bunch of weapons. Everyone calls her “Mom” because it’s only natural that the team of athlete crime fighters have a Jewish mother. Bo Jackson is too impulsive and angry to listen to her explanation of the weapons and he throws a boomerang through a wall. This is the third reference to Australia on the show. Two boomerangs and a crime in the Outback. What’s the Australian connection here?
The boomerang eventually flies back and scares Gretzky. Wayne’s idiocy then causes him to press the wrong button on a remote control which sends a spaceship crashing through a wall. If we had a dollar for every futuristic spacecraft Wayne Gretzky destroyed, we’d be rich!
Anyway, the team flies to the Outback to solve the problem in what we now know is named ProStar One. In the ship, Jackson is confused with the gadgets and that leads to our favourite line of the show so far. Jordan looks at him angrily and asks “You mean Bo doesn’t know?” While this clash of personalities is taking place, Wayne Gretzky complains about food and eats a chocolate bar, which seems like exactly what Gretzky would do in this situation.
They meet the girl who asked for their help and her pet kangaroo licks Bo as the girl jumps into Jordan’s arms. Wayne Gretzky runs off to look for food again. The team spies on the baddies and we learn that Gargantus is using slave labour to build himself a castle. the ProStars head off the stop them. Bo wants to charge in and kick some ass, but Jordan thinks a more rational approach would help. Wayne Gretzky wants to talk about lunch.
The girl’s brother tries to stop them in order to get into the gang and save his father. He rolls a boulder down the mountain and attempts to crush them.
Naturally, the ProStars manage to stop the boulder by using Michael Jordan’s giant basketball while Wayne Gretzky complains about the lack of food. Seriously, who’s decision was it to make Wayne Gretzky, possibly the thinnest hockey player on earth, a crazed food fiend? We think the character has to have an eating disorder and, in that case, someone needs to get him some help. Apparently Bo doesn’t know the warning signs of bulimia nervosa.
The gang comes after the ProStars but “It’s game time!” The team pulls out their signature weapons and goes to town on the evil villains. Wayne Gretzky has pucks that splatter like eggs in their faces. We were half expecting him to eat the pucks and ask for a side of bacon. Unfortunately, the odds are not in the ProStars’ favour and they’re eventually kidnapped by the gang. Wayne Gretzky still hasn’t eaten. The girl finds her father in jail and the reunion between the two is much happier than about 99% of father/daughter prison meetings. It’s probably because her dad doesn’t smell like alcohol and prostitutes.
Back at the evil castle, the brother is shocked to learn that the gang has double crossed him. That’s what gangs do kid. You’ve just learned a valuable lesson. Meanwhile, the girl’s kangaroo steals the remote to the team’s spaceship and Michael Jordan uses it to smash through the side of the jail. That’s a sentence we never thought we’d type.
The team breaks out and Jordan again uses his giant balls, this time to escape the castle.
The gang chases after them and Michael Jordan tells the girl’s brother that he needs to make “the most important decision of [his] life” and asks if he wants to side with those he loves or those who want hate. It’s very deep and moving.
The kid falls for Jordan’s bull and leaves the gang. Wayne Gretzky welcomes him to the team, but shockingly doesn’t mention food. Bo Jackson opens a thermos and throws some of Gretzky’s “special high-protein chocolate shake” at some bad guy. Rather than celebrate the victory and the team’s escape from certain death, Wayne laments the loss of his chocolate shake. The team escapes on the giant ball, crashes the truck their in and then crushes Gargantus with the ball they’re riding on. This wasn’t the first time Michael Jordan crushed a criminal with one of his balls.
Mom somehow shows up in Australia and she realizes that ProStar One has been destroyed. Jordan and Jackson immediately blame Gretzky. That’s what he gets for whining about food the whole time instead of actually fighting crime. Wayne starts babbling about his childhood and the show comes to an end.
Or does it?
Back in real life, some kid asks the athletes how they made it to the big leagues. Both Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky avoid saying “Our parents forced us to and we were never able to have a real childhood” and instead give some encouraging words. Wayne Gretzky looks particularly out of it in this clip as if someone woke him up, dragged him out of bed and threw him on ProStars. Given the quality of this show, we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what actually occurred.
The credits roll and we’re done!
Verdict: This is simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. It was like watching Ninja Turtles with athletes, if Ninja Turtles was a terrible TV show. If you didn’t hate Wayne Gretzky before watching this, his character on the show will change your mind. He may be the highest scoring player in NHL history, but the show turns him into a weak, stupid, scared goofball who is always on the lookout for food. However, we don’t actually know Wayne Gretzky personally, so that may be his true personality finally coming out.
Michael Jordan must have had a big list of demands heading into the show. Not only is his character the leader of the group, but he’s smarter than everyone else combined and he doesn’t have to film cheesy split screen segments and talk to kids. He isn’t even wearing a ProStars jacket in the live action clips.
For those who are wondering, yes, the series was released on DVD.