Being a Power Rangers fan comes with a lot of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is owning up to all of the spinoffs and ripoffs that came along after the show debuted in 1993. VR Troopers ring a bell? How about Big Bad Beetleborgs? Maybe Masked Rider? You can forget about that last one. Wipe it from your memory like that time you peed your pants in fifth grade.
Most of these shows were produced by Saban Entertainment, the group behind the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, capitalizing on how astronomically popular the show ended up being. The success was often replicated, but never duplicated.
And then there’s this.
Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills is unique among the handful of “Ameritoku” shows from the mid-late ’90s. For one, it’s 100% American-made, meaning none of the suits or action footage is lifted from a Japanese superhero show. It’s also one of the few shows like it not developed by Saban – the only other one of any significance that I know of being Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, but at least that had a computer virus voiced by Tim Curry.
This is about all I knew about the show before I bought the complete DVD collection for seven bucks off of Amazon. I have no memory of watching this as a kid. I don’t remember seeing any toys for it at the store. I’d go as far as to say that nobody watched this show, if not for the fact that it’s out on DVD, meaning there’s clearly a very niche nostalgic market for it, or Cookie Jar is trying to hold onto their distribution rights to this hot commodity.
TTAFfBH – which, when abbreviated, looks like the alphabet drowning in its own puke, screaming for help – originally ran from 1994 – 95 on the USA Network and topped out at 40 episodes. Since nobody else seems up to the task, I’m going to go through and poke fun at it episode by episode.
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EPISODE 1: “In The Beginning…”
In what is clearly an evil lair of some variety, an evil dude sits on his evil throne. Some gross alien guy hands him a piece of plexiglass that’s apparently a map showing the “focal point” of the “power portals.” Throne guy wants to reward the gross guy for acquiring the map, but realizes the gross guy failed to kill “Nimbar” and instead sentences him to… something about forty years banishment in the mines somewhere? These are all things we should understand soon. Doesn’t mean we will, but here’s hoping.
This is our main villain, Emperor Gorganus. His suit appears to be made out of recycled tires and rejected Madonna outfits. He’s accompanied by his avian sidekick, Lechner, who I will refer to as “Shitbird” from now until infinity because that’s what he fucking looks like. Gorganus exposes that Earth is the “portal focal point” and once he conquers it, he can then conquer the galaxy. Makes sense.
By pushing a few buttons on his wrist-a-majiggy, Gorganus summons a giant monster to send to Earth. This monster is Ninjabot, “The Samurai Robot,” because here in America we don’t recognize the difference. Ninjabot blows up a few power lines and generally causes a negligible amount of damage.
We fade to a cafe in Beverly Hills, where we meet the first of our heroes: Swinton Sawyer, portrayed by Rugg Williams. Rugg (I wonder if he has a brother named Mat) later went on to write a book about turning your kid into a self-important douche. Maybe he learned from experience.
Also, his goddamn name is Swinton.
Swinton’s dad is lecturing him on doing his schoolwork and showing him pictures of Ninjabot taken by one of his reporters. Swinton is the Billy of the group. He’s intelligent to the point that he skipped a grade and now he doesn’t fit in with his classmates. Mr. Sawyer tells Swinton to stop being a bitch and do his homework. Not those exact words, but that’s how I would have said it.
The group meets up to work on their mid-term science project, but Swinton is nowhere to be found. Here we meet Laurie Foster (played by Leslie Danon), Drew Vincent (K. Jill Sorgen), and, my personal favorite, Gordon Fucking Henley (Richard Nason). And by “favorite” I mean the one with the most punchable face.
Swinton eventually shows up with the finished project, which looks like a bunch of bullshit the prop guys found in the studio dumpster. Gordon Fucking Henley opens his vapid facehole and calls Swinton an “egghead geek” and reveals that he, Gordon Fucking Henley, should be the one to present it to the class.
Here are some irrelevant pictures of Gordon Fucking Henley’s dumb face.
I share a name with the guy in a pink dress shirt and sweater vest.
Swinton begins to demonstrate what the machine can do. Gordon Fucking Henley, being the Gordon Fucking Henley that he is, interferes and causes a portal to open up before them. Drew, the spunky blonde, is the first to jump through, followed by Swinton. Gordon Fucking Henley tries to bail like a little sissy boy, but shortly after he and Laurie make their way into the vortex to help them.
On the other side, the teenagers find themselves in a smoky room with a heavy stench of wine and cheap perfume. When the gas clears, we’re introduced to… this… thing.
The aborted Kraang fetus is named Nimbar, “protector of the Power Portals and Counselor to the Galactic Sentinels.” He goes on about Gorganus and how the villain destroyed his planet. Gorganus took the map of the power portals from Nimbar, as we saw earlier, and plans to use these portals to conquer Earth.
Gordon Fucking Henley questions why he’s there when Nimbar could just summon his Galactic Sentinels when he reveals that they are the Galactic Sentinels. Drew reacts by saying “Feature that! We’re teenage alien fighters.” I have many issues with this. Was “feature that” even a cool thing to say in 1994? And isn’t it a little early to be lampshading how ridiculous your own show is?
Nimbar sticks out his gross hand that he apparently just has inside of his gelatinous mess of a body and gives the kids some cute little tattoos that will disappear until they’re called to action. They observe Ninjabot on the magical projector screen and inquire about why they were the four that were summoned when there’s so many more qualified groups of people out there to fight evil, but Nimbar gives no damns and tells them about their powers.
Swinton, the innovator, receives Apollo. Drew, the independent breaker of rules, gets Centaur. The last of the lineup, Laurie, becomes Scorpio. It’s heavily implied that Laurie is the leader of the team, but Nimbar never outright says it. Girl power?
The kids step on the Transo-discs and announce their hero names, morphing them into their Sentinel forms.
Holy shit, let’s talk about these Sentinel forms.
I’m conflicted. On one hand, they’re fucking awful. On the other hand, they’re exactly what you’d expect from a show of this caliber, so in a way, they’re imperfectly perfect. The regular-ass shoes really bring it all together.
After admiring their newfound muscles, the heroes are transported to the scene of the crime to fight Ninjabot, who is still trashing incredibly remote areas of the desert that would make the abandoned warehouse district from Power Rangers look densely populated. The Sentinels, upon arrival, decide that a good plan of attack is to do a bunch of flips to avoid the robot’s sword laser attacks, followed by a few poorly choreographed kicks.
It doesn’t take these kids long to summon their weapons. Swinton gets a… knife?… thing that shoots lasers. Gordon Fucking Henley gets a staff… that shoots lasers. Drew gets an axe… that shoots lasers, and Laurie is granted a sword that can cut through concrete.
Just kidding. It shoots lasers. They just keep firing fucking lasers. Ninjabot falls down, presumably sick of the lasers.
Back at the evil chamber of doom, Emperor Tireface and Shitbird are dwelling on the fact that Ninjabot sucks a fat one when it comes to getting anything useful done. Instead of cutting his losses, he increases Ninjabot’s power with the thingamajiggy on his wrist. With this extra power, the villain vaporizes the heroes’ weapons.
In one last desperate attempt to be a leader, Laurie commands the team to “form Knightron!” I feel like I was listening pretty intently to what Nimbar said, and I don’t believe this “Knightron” fellow was mentioned at all, but I’m just gonna roll with it and pretend they knew about it instinctively like they did their weapons.
The teens put their arms in a square formation and their tattoos glow, allowing them to apparently combine together (they all just kinda disappeared) and create a gross-looking knight guy. That’s Knightron. I’m pretty sure his helmet is Gorganus’s with a new coat of paint, but I don’t give a shit enough to analyze it.
Ninjabot fires a couple of lasers – because actually using your weapon for its intended purpose is stupid – and jumps over Knightron like a dumb idiot. One short battle and a few of Knightron’s sword-lasers later, and Ninjabot is defeated, followed by this:
The kids teleport back to home base, ecstatic about their first victory. Nimbar informs them that they should never tell anybody about their powers, or else Gorganus will wreck their shit. He also reveals that Knightron should only be used sparingly because his power is limited. That’s fine, because what you really want to see is retarded wrestlers shooting lasers out of their bladed weapons. With an out-of-place “Seeya dude” from Drew, the teens peace out and go back to sunny California.
Tireface laments about his defeat. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of this.
Back at Cafe Maison, our heroes are getting along quite well when Swinton’s dad appears, offering them dinner. He goes to answer his pager, and the kids talk about what their relationship will be like in school now. Gordon Fucking Henley, being as cool as Gordon Fucking Henley can be, is afraid of what people will think about him being seen near his teammates. The others agree, but mostly for their own safety and not because they’re shallow piss puddles.
Suddenly, their tattoos glow, and the kids have to come up with excuses to skip dinner with the subtlety of a punch in the genitals. After one more shout-out to the show’s dumbass name, they get up and leave.
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After just one episode, I can already tell that this show knows exactly what it is. It’s not trying to be smart or revolutionary – it’s an unabashed ripoff and a product of its time. But it’s not as offensive as one would assume at first glance. Mighty Morphin’ has it beat in the action and music department, but I would say this pilot is on par with “Day of the Dumpster” in terms of introducing the story. The heroes – minus Gordon Fucking Henley – are charming enough, the villains are hilariously bad, and Nimbar is gross. Also, it’s not trying to sell you toys. There are none. I would totally buy Shitbird, though. Missed opportunity.
“In The Beginning…” is almost refreshing in its self-awareness and awfulness, and pleasantly surprising. The next episode is called “The Note.” I assume Swinton commits suicide.