The Mad Magazine TV Special From 1974


Mad magazine, founded in 1952, reverted back to issue 1 this month, in what could be seen as a reboot for the legendary satirical magazine. Over the decades, Mad – the last surviving publication from EC Comics – has produced, alongside the regular magazine, assorted books, spin-offs, foreign editions, records and movies – all of variable quality. But in 1974, the magazine made a bid to transfer its humour to the television screen, with a pilot animated show, later rebranded a one-off special. But the show never made it to air.

The TV special, with animation supervised by Jimmy Murakami, has all the usual Mad features – movie satires, acerbic swipes at American society, and regular comic strips from the likes of Don Martin, Mort Drucker, Al Jaffee and Dave Berg, all Mad regulars. Produced for the ABC network, the show is a mishmash of ideas, some of which work more effectively than others – much like the magazine itself, in fact. But in 1974, this was a difficult sell to TV networks that were still inherently conservative. Adult animation was something of a hard sell, and to make things worse, as writer Dick DeBartolo observed, “nobody wanted to sponsor a show that made fun of products that were advertised on TV, like car manufacturers.”

The special was shelved for years, but like many a previously lost TV show, it has mysteriously emerged online in recent years. Fans of Mad will doubtless enjoy it.