THE SEA MONSTERS ARE BACK
It’s been 44 years since sea monsters made an appearance in the sea of TV programming. The producing team of Sid and Marty Krofft launched “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” in 1973 as their fourth live-action Saturday morning television series. The tale of a friendly sea creature and the two young boys who befriend him came along after the prolific producing pair had created “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “The Bugaloos” and “Lidsville.”
The Canadian brothers are now in their 80s but show no signs of slowing down as they have joined forces again with Sigmund for a reboot of the series to be broadcast by Amazon Studios. The new tales of “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” begin to unfold Oct. 13.
“You know ‘Sigmund’ is one of our favourites,” Marty Krofft says. “It was one of our three favourites along with ‘Land of the Lost’ and ‘H.R. Pufnstuf.’ Except for the sea monsters, ‘Sigmund’ was the first reality-based series we had done.”
“Sigmund” joins two other series the Kroffts are currently producing: “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl,” based on their 1976 series that was part of “The Krofft Supershow,” and the original series “Mutt & Stuff.”
The new version of “Sigmund” features a much larger production budget than the original.
“I would say the budget for the new ‘Sigmund’ is about 12 times what we had for the first one,” Krofft said.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the story. The new series focuses on two young brothers — Johnny (Solomon Stewart) and Scotty (Kyle Breitkopf) who save Sigmund from danger.
The Kroftts always have looked for new young talent because they have not been trained so much they no longer come across as kids. The key to all of the Krofft programs aimed at children was to make them as accessible as possible to young viewers.
In the original series, most of the threats to Sigmund’s freedom came from the housekeeper, played by veteran actor Mary Wickes, who watched after the boys while their parents were away. Now, it’s Captain Barnabas (David Arquette) who’s desperate to capture a sea monster to prove his claims they exist aren’t the rantings of a mad man.
Krofft points out that the villains of their shows have become quite legendary — from Billie Hayes playing Witchiepoo on “H.R. Pufnstuf ” to Martha Raye’s Benita Bizarre on “The Bugaloos.” The executive producer was able to get Arquette to be the latest villain in the Krofft world because he’s been a longtime friend.
The original series ran for 29 episodes that covered two seasons starting in 1973. Unlike the new version, the first “Sigmund” had a musical element as star Johnny Whitaker would often break into a tune to explain what he was feeling. Those musical numbers were written by Danny Janssen, Wes Farrell and Bobby Hart. The original theme song has been updated for the new series by The Roots.
Krofft doesn’t dismiss the idea of a musical number or two in the new “Sigmund” but that would most likely happen when a second season gets ordered. For now, there are seven episodes in the first season that they are using to introduce the viewers to the characters.
There have been some tweaks made rebooting the series, from the more expensive look to the lack of musical numbers. What hasn’t changed is the way the writers were able to offer tales of issues about friendship, not judging people, family and conservation without making the stories too heavy.
“We never wanted to do education,” Krofft says. “But we wanted to do relationships. We wanted people to see what it is like to be likable. We snuck all that stuff in. We have done that here, too. The relationships are all there. That is something that is very important.”
After “Sigmund” sank slowly into the cancellation sunset, the Kroffts went on to produce a long list of programs for children and adults. Their credits include “Far Out Space Nuts,” “Electra Woman & Dyna Girl,” “The Donny and Marie Show,” “Pink Lady and Jeff ” and “D.C. Follies.” Many of their shows featured various sizes of puppets because of their background in puppeteering.
“Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” is the latest project by the Kroffts to get new life and there will be more. Krofft says numerous pilots have been shot based on their past projects and new material and they are just waiting for a response from the networks and/or streaming services.
The new tales of "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" begin to unfold Oct. 13, on Amazon Studios.